The History of Shoji Screens and Doors

shoji screens and doorsIf you want to add a touch of elegance to your home decor, shoji screens and doors, along with room dividers, window treatments, and other accessories, are an excellent way to do so. The design of these screens originated in Japan, with influence from Chinese room dividers and screens dating back to the 4th century B.C.E. Today these multi-purpose screens are a great addition to any room in your home.

Original Chinese screens and dividers were heavy, and were not created to move around. These folding screens typically served as partitions between rooms and folded through the use of cloth or leather hinges. In Japan, these screens evolved into several different forms with varying designs. One of the most common of these styles — the shoji screen–is named for its translucent paper set in wooden doors and screens.

Folding screens in Japan used rice paper for hinges, and, like Chinese room dividers, were created out of bamboo and rice paper.

In Japan, these screens had a variety of uses, not just limited to the home. Their uses included decoration for tea ceremonies, concerts, dances, and Buddhist rites, along with being used in outdoor processions or celebrations. It was also common for the screens of these doors and dividers to be painted with patterns and scenery, making them not only stylish home fixtures but unique works of art as well.

By the 16th century, European traders discovered these Japanese screens and doors and adapted their designs to their own purposes. For instance, the Jesuit missionaries found the folding design useful for teaching geography. However, trading bans in the 17th Century meant that Chinese and Japanese divider screens didn’t come to Europe until they were imported during mid-1800s.

Ever since shoji screens and doors came to the West, they have seen popularity in a multitude of forms for home decor. Throughout the world, shoji screens are most commonly used as doors, windows, headboards, closet doors, and room dividers. Many modern shoji panels have transitioned to the use of more durable synthetic materials such as plastic rather than rice paper, although more authentic styles are still available. In addition to bamboo frames, a variety of hardwoods are available to create just about any look and match any style in your home. Shoji screens and doors are an easy and stylish way to add an elegant indoor/outdoor look to all rooms in your home.

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