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Matsu

Motif Information
Motif matsu 01.png
Rōmaji Matsu
English Pine
Kanji
Kana まつ
Season Winter
Seasonal Exceptions None
Auspicious Yes
Motif Type Plant
Pronounciation
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Matsu means pine. Matsu are evergreen coniferous trees with paired needles. Matsu have thick scaly bark which may appear as its own geometric motif, matsukawabishi.

The most common species of pine depicted in Japanese art are black pine (Pinus thunbergii, 黒松, kuromatsu) which grows on the coast and red pine (Pinus densiflora, 赤松, akamatsu) which is native to the mountains but has been cultivated near fields and homes since ancient times.[1] Red pine is cultivated for timber and as an ornamental tree. Black pine has negligible value as timber but is resistant to salt and pollution and plays a valuable role in stabilizing shorelines. Black pine also was frequently cultivated at Shinto shrines to mark the edge of shrine precincts.

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

Pine Trees byobu (松林図, late 16th century) by Hasegawa Tōhaku, a designated National Treasure in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum
The Pine Tree of Priest Rennyo at Morinomiya (森の宮蓮如松, c.1860), from the series One Hundred Views of Osaka (浪花百景) by Ichiyōsai Yoshitaki in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Matsu is a winter motif.

Motif Connotations & Symbolism

Matsu is a homophone for the Japanese for "to wait" (待つ), so yuki-matsu, pine with snow, which contrasts matsu's evergreen bows with white snow, is a popular motif.

Auspicious Nature

Matsu is associated with longevity not just for its perceived lifespan, but also since pine trees are said to grow on Mount Horai, the island home of the Taoist Eight Immortals.

Matsu is also strongly associated with Shintoism as matsu have been seen as yorishiro, places where deities can descend to earth.[2] Matsu have been used as protective motifs on mirrors since ancient times.

Since fallen pine needles remain in pairs even after falling to the ground they represent fidelity. [3]

Common Motif Pairings

Identification & Style Variations

Matsu can appear as stylized boughs or as matsuba, pine needles.

Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

Kagami-ita painted with matsu

A matsu is always painted on the kagami-ita, the back wall used in a Noh theater.

Kadomatsu (門松, gate pine) are a pair of decorations placed outside one's home or business before the New Year to serve as a temporary home for kami (Shinto deities).[4]

In Poetry

In Heian era poetry, matsu was strongly associated with waiting for a lover.[5]

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions

  • Link to any relevant threads on IG

References

  1. Shirane, Haruo. Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons: Nature, Literature, and the Arts. Columbia Press. 2011. p. 136.
  2. Shirane, Haruo. Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons: Nature, Literature, and the Arts. Columbia Press. 2011. p. 137.
  3. Dee, Elaine Evans. Michie, Thomas S. Kata-gami: Japanese stencils in the collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. Smithsonian Institution. Washington, DC. 1979. p. 21.
  4. Wikipedia article on Kadomatsu. Accessed April 20, 2017.
  5. Shirane, Haruo. Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons: Nature, Literature, and the Arts. Columbia Press. 2011. p. 137.

Image Credits

  • Moonblossom
  • Supergrouper
  • Stepan-san

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