murasaki 
CATEGORY: art history / paintings
 
1 Abbreviation of murasaki-iro 紫色. Purple colour. Purple, as mentioned in the NIHONSHOKI 日本書紀 (720), was traditionally considered to symbolize nobility and elegance, and purple robes indicating the wearer's wealth and status were highly prized. Dyes, senryou 染料, were made from plants such as the murasaki plant (2.below) and sapanwood *suou 蘇芳. Purple pigments, *ganryou 顔料, were usually made by mixing red and blue; in the Heian period (8 -12c) for example, cinnabar red *shu 朱 was mixed with indigo *ai 藍 to make purple.

2 The name of a plant, a gromwell (Lithospermum erythrohizon), whose roots were used to make a purple dye *shikon 紫根. Murasaki is a perennial flower about 50cm high which grew wild in mountain regions of Japan, the Korean peninsular and N.E. China. In the Heian period (9-12c) the Musashino 武蔵野 area around present-day Tokyo appears to have been an important area for collecting murasaki, and in the Edo period (17-19c) much murasaki came from Iwate prefecture. The plant needed to grow for three to four years before the roots were suitable for dye-making, and the quantity of dye which could be extracted from each plant was small. Murasaki was difficult to cultivate, so supplies were scarce. In the Edo period dye-makers often began to use sappanwood *suou 蘇芳, in stead of murasaki.

3 Another name for *shikon 紫根, a purple dye made from the murasaki plant (2 above).
 
 

 
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