Chinese Liuli Appreciation Card  |  Global Site | Corporate Brand
  A night rain on cherry blossoms,
A Liuli box of dreams –
The magic of Japanese Liuli master Kyohei Fujita.

─By Loretta Hui-shan Yang

The Hellers Gallery.  Soho, New York, 1988.   Surrounded by throngs of critics who questioned him, “Your thoughts and ideas are similar to Makie in Edo Period, what is the correlation?” Kyohei Fujita responded with a smile.  That was the first time we met.

A night rain on cherry blossoms, pond dreams.

Each Liuli dream is carefully hand-painted upon a box made from the smooth white wood of the Japanese wood-oil tree.  The smallest box measures 12x12x13cm and has a value of US$4,500.

Born in Tokyo in 1921, Kyohei Fujita graduated from the Tokyo Academy of Arts, Department of Metal Crafts at nineteen.  At twenty-six he entered the Iwata Glass Co. and resigned two years later to establish a career as an independent artist.  In 1973 Fujita presented the “Japanese Iris” themed Liuli box.

From that point on the name Kyohei Fujita became synonymous with “Liuli box”.  And it was the most ornate and magical Japanese boxes in the world.  I had the wonderful opportunity to dine with Mr. Fujita on his seventy-sixth birthday at Xiulan, a restaurant famed for its home-style Shanghainese cuisine in Taiwan.  We enjoyed a myriad of tasty delicacies – each dish better than the next.  Joining us were artists Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova.  Though the combined age of all of us at the table exceeded two hundred fifty years, our appetites were strong and our spirits were merry.  Food, conversation and laughter flowed free that day – the true joys of life.

Stanislav Libensky, Czech Liuli master, Liuli artist for 50 years
Jaroslava Brychtova, Czech Liuli master, Liuli artist for 60 years
Kyohei Fujita, Liuli artist for 50 years.

I watched my friends gulping down bowl after bowl of hearty chicken soup in pure enjoyment and asked myself, if this is not the true meaning of life, what is it?

The elderly gentleman laughed as he traveled through the Venice canals.  In his Murano (an Italian island famed for its glass art) workshop, a group of seasoned Italian glass blowers produced piece after piece of what looked like the inlaid and adorned boxes from Japan’s Pinan Period.  He observed his work as he blew but I wonder if he was thinking that a steaming plate of pasta smothered in Neapolitan meat sauce would be good about now.  Or perhaps Harry’s Bar across the canal – their risotto wouldn’t be bad either.

Twenty years before Kyohei Fujita began making blown glass boxes, one of Japan’s first generation of Liuli artists Toshichi Iwata had made them too.  The difference is that Iwata emphasized Western aesthetics.  By doing so the line between traditional and modern lost its impact and thus his work fell through the cracks of time.

In contrast, Fujita places great emphasis on Japanese tradition and hand-made paper craft.  This is why he represents modern Japanese Liuli art of the past fifty years and why he will continue to do so forever. 

Could there be a hidden metaphor within?

The lark sings but one tune its entire life.  Fujita attempted to change his style in the latter part of his career but the change was never fully received.  One after the other, the blown glass boxes kept coming with the largest box valued at a staggering NT$3,000,000 (just over US$97,000). 

If there is anything to be learned from Kyohei Fujita, it would have to be the word “tradition”.  In contemporary glass art, all effort and passion seems to be placed on transcendental distinctiveness with this distinctiveness rooted in a form of historical sensibility.  One must acknowledge and treasure their past in order to enrich their present.  What the future may bring is thus negligible. 

Humans are lonely beings who search for fulfillment through companionship.  Unless there is true insurmountable obstacle, solitude is but a phase.  Assisting others in leaving loneliness behind by embracing their past is one way to go through it.

Kyohei Fujita has inadvertently extended the glory of Japan’s Pinan Period through his work.  Through the ashes of time and glory, he expresses a boundless aura.  What is treasured inside that box is an ever-expanding ray of hope born from the ultimate beauty of life.

Let craft be craft – nothing more, nothing less.

A reporter approached Fujita at the 2001 International Contemporary Glass Art Exhibition held in the Shanghai Fine Arts Museum.  When asked, “Which piece do you think is the best?” he looked over at Loretta Hui-Shan Yang and said, “Hers is the best.”  Mr. Fujita finally spoke. 

Mr. Kyohei Fujita passed away September 18, 2004 but we will forever remember his kindness, his smile, his inspiration.


Kyohei Fujita (1921-2004)

Kyohei Fujita grew up in Tokyo surrounded by contemporary Liuli artists and later become a key figure in the contemporary Liuli art scene himself. His work recalls the spirit of the traditional Japanese lifestyle, especially that of Chado-the tea ceremony.

Born in Tokyo in 1921, Fujita graduated from the Tokyo Academy of Arts,Department of Metal Crafts. The training he received at this institution came to play a large role in his future work.

Fujita introduced the “Japanese Iris” series in 1973 that consisted of Liuli boxes adorned in gold foil expressed through a traditional Japanese craft ideal. His work here paved the development for the contemporary style. Fujita’s jewel like boxes are presented in a delicate aesthetic manner, rich in Zen philosophy, poetically Japanese and received with universal critical acclaim. Swirls of Liuli combined with yellow and white gold formed his unique take on color-“there is more to color than what the eyes sees, amongst other things it represents the spirit, though and emotion of humanity”.

The Kyohei Fujita museum was established in 1996.

In 2002 Kyohei Fujita was awarded Japan’s most prestigious honor in the field of arts and sciences, “The Order of Culture”, alongside the Nobel Peace Prize recipient of that year.


scroll up

scroll down

  About Kyohei Fujita »
Collections »