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Floating above the clouds

A stone which resembles Mount Taishan in China

A unique stone with a long history. Although it can be held in the palm of your hand it resembles the greatness of the holy mountain Taishan

A stone of superb solid texture and despite it sitting on just the palm of your hand, its many peaks create the impression of a vast mountain range.
The base of the stone shows the slightly white ‘geta’ that is a characteristic of Furuya stones. This is evidence of its untouched natural shape and also gives it the sense of a sacred mountain floating above the clouds.

Furuya Ishi Bonseki: A stone owned by Yamanaka Shintenou in Meiji 3 (1871) when he was a member of the Imperial Council. Width: 9 cm / 3½".

Grey limestone: Furuya stone
The Furuya stones (Furuya-ishi) can be found in the mountains of Wakayama Prefecture, Japan and are of hard black or black-grey limestone. They mostly depict mountain, waterfall or coastal rock scenes. Characteristic are the deep indentations (almost always vertical), with a typically smooth surface, often with thin white mineral veins running vertically down the face of the stone.

The back of the stone is also an impressive sight.

Japan's revolution. A small background history

Yamanaka Shintenou (1822 to 1885), a student of Chinese classics and a lover of painting.

Around one hundred and fifty years ago, Japan was undergoing a huge revolution; changing from a feudal society into the Japan we know today. There were a number of very influential people at the time whose names have gone down in history. Here we will meet one such person and the small stone that he owned as part of the pure hearted literary tradition in which he was well versed. During his life as a high ranking political figure and civil servant he was known as Yamanaka Seiitsu, but at the age of 51 he left public service and retired to Kyoto to lead a more refined and quiet life, pursuing the arts until he passed away ten or so years later. He took on the name of Yamanaka Shintenou on his retirement.

The scenery from Tai Ranzan Bou, the house in Kyoto near Ranzan in Arashiyama.

Shintenou was born close to what is now Hekinan City in Aichi Prefecture in 1822 as the second son in a large land owning family. He was encouraged to leave for Osaka and begin his studies when in 1854 his younger brother suddenly died and Shintenou took on family responsibilities and developed a sense of national pride. His studies took him to Ise and then to Kyoto where he became acquainted with other patriots such as Yanagawa Seikan, Rai Mikisaburo and Umeda Unbin all of whom vigorously threw themselves into the abolition of the feudal system and the creation of the modern nation of Japan. This period marked the end of the literati culture that Shinentou was well versed in along with his friend, Tomioka Tessai, a very well-known enthusiast of suiseki.

Up to and after the enthronement of the Emperor Meiji in 1868, the powers of the regional shogun were reduced and a new government was created. Shintenou, who escaped from arrest during the 1858 mass round-up of the rebels, took a number of high-ranking civil service positions in the postal service, treasury and as a prefectural governor. After many years of dedicated service in the creation of the new nation state, Shintenou asked the Imperial Council for permission to leave it to the next generation and to allow him to retire. This was granted and he moved to Kyoto to live out the final years of his life in peaceful solitude, happy in the knowledge that he had played a large part in the creation of a new and modern society in Japan.

Box inscription by the hand of Shintenou,

Holy mountain in China

‘Many peaks of Mt Taishan can be found in the palm of a mountain hermit’ is the name given by Shintenou. The stone refers to the holy moutain Taishan in China. Mount Taishan, has been the object of an imperial cult for nearly 2,000 years. The artistic masterpieces found there are in perfect harmony with the natural landscape. The mountain has always been a source of inspiration for Chinese artists and scholars and symbolizes ancient Chinese civilizations and beliefs.

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