yama-ai 山藍
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Lit. 'mountain indigo'. Perennial plant 30-40cm high, Mercurialis leiocarpa Sieb. et zuc., used to make a blue dye senryou 染料. Mountain indigo grew in highland areas of central and southern Japan, and the leaves were harvested in summer and early autumn. The leaves or juice was rubbed directory onto fabric giving a light green-blue colour known as suri-ai 刷り藍 Lit. 'rubbed blue'. Yama-ai was most important before and during the Nara period, but continued to be used through the Edo period. The dye contained impurities and the proportion of colorant was low, so the dye-colour was dull and ran easily.

*ai 藍.

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