What is Ikebana?
Japanese

Ikebana is the art of flower arranging.  It has been developed as a traditional Japanese form of art along with the tea ceremony.  The origin of Ikebana may be traced back to the 6th century when Buddhist priests offered ritual flowers to Buddha.  Ikebana became an established art form around the 16th century, and it is still one of the most popular forms of art that many people(mostly women) prefer to learn.  Compared with western style of flower arrangeing,, in Ikebana more plants and branches are used.  Also, because the space between flowers, plants or branches is considered highly important, usually not many of them are used in one arrangement.  The combination of color and line are emphasized.

History

In the course of its history, many schools were founded by head masters and many different styles of flower arranging were introduced. The Ikenobo school, founded by Senkei Ikenobo in the mid-15th century, is thought to be the oldest flower arranging school.  Ikenobo introduced Rikka style (upright style).  In this style lowesr and plants were arranged in an upright position.  As this style is very decorative, it was suited to decorate the large rooms of feudal lordsf residences.

In the late 16th century, when the tea ceremony became a fashion, Nageire-syle(free style) was popular.  Since this style valued elegant simplicity, it was suited to the meditative atmosphere of the tea room.  In the late 17th century, a new style, Seika, appeared.  This style simplified the rules of the Rikka style.  Three main flowers or plants or branches create a triangle, each symbolizing "heaven", "earth", and "mankind" to express harmony between man and nature.

At the beginning of the 20th century, new schools were founded and the modern ikebana style was created. One of the new schools, the OharaSchool introduced the Moribana style with the idea of Bonsai creating a miniature landscape on a tray.  The master of this school, Souun Ohara, published text books and he and the members of his school exhibited their flower arrangements at shopping malls, and Ikebana became accessible to everyone.  Now, there are over 2000 schools in Japan which spread after World War II.