Sun and Dragonflies, 10s brown
Paper: Rice Paper, Legion Mulberry White 38
Paper Size: 9.75" x 13" [Octavo 25" x 38.03" (635 mm x 966 mm) Utrecht 19118]
Image Size: 3.9375" x 4.875"
Collage Stamp: 1923 10 yen Japanese postage stamp [Scott #186]
Edition Size: 50
Inks Used: 1-12 Water soluble inks ; 13-50 Rubber-based inks
Date Cut: 20 September 1999
This replica of the 1923 10 yen Japanese postage stamp [Scott #186] illustrates three of the most common elements of the national cultural symbology. The center element, the sun with radiating light beams, represents Nippon itself, the land of the Rising Sun. The upper center medallion is a stylized Chrysanthemum, the Imperial Crest symbolizing the emperor and the uninterrupted 1300 year rule of the island by the imperial family.
But my favorite symbol here is the paired dragonflies supporting the text box with Japanese characters and Western numerals. The Buddhist and Shinto cultures of Japan had long prized close observation of the natural world, and the incredible ferocity of the dragonfly was recognized despite its small size. When the rival clans of the 1500's battled for control of the island, the samurai looked to Nature to provide examples of uncompromised bravery which they could emulate. They displayed banners and carried talismans which symbolized the most potent spiritual forces. The dragonfly symbolizes Japan and victory.
At about the same time, European cultures were also warring among themselves on another continent, and their knights brought their own set of symbols into battle. These European griffins, dragons, stags, and boars were fierce, to be sure, in their own mammalian way, but pound for pound, a dragonfly was a far more formidable foe. The European cultures, too busy with their own importance to look at such small things, overlooked the world of the miniature, but the Japanese recognized and honored it.