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Asian-Inspired Cremation & Raku Urns

by J. Malec

Beautiful cloisonne cremation urn for ashes.

Asians are the fastest growing immigrant population in the United States. During the past decade, more immigrants have come to the United States from Asia than from any other area in the world. Asian art forms and aesthetics have been influential in the West for millennia, and their diverse culture contributes richness to aesthetics in many ways.

Early influence can be traced back to the first established trade routes between the Mediterranean and China. Over the years, Asian aesthetics have become such a part of our vernacular environment that we often don’t recognize Asian-inspired roots in many designs. A great example of this is the Golden Bird Adult Ceramic Urn which displays the delicate and elegant beauty of Asian-inspired art that many have come to appreciate. The designs and availability of Japanese uns and Asian-inspired cremation urns increase in tandem with the increasing Asian-American population in the United States.

Ceramic Cremation Urns

An example of Japanese ceramic aesthetics is embodied in the principle of wabi-sabi and can be viewed on the Urns Through Time website. Raku urns and pottery are a form of earthenware in which natural imperfections in the finished work are celebrated as a source of beauty.

Contemplating wabi-sabi pottery can be a way to accept and appreciate imperfections and view them as contributing to individual beauty. In this way, a Raku urn would be a beautiful celebration of the complexity of life. We found this well-articulated description of wabi-sabi on a website called Noble Harbor:

Wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered - and it reveres authenticity above all...It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.

The Cherry Ceramic Cremation Urn is an example of a contemporary cremation urn that reflects a wabi-sabi aesthetic. This Asian-Inspired Japanese urn features different stylistic qualities. A naturally forming crackle pattern establishes a perceived deviation from smoothness often associated with beauty.

A similar urn to this wabi-sabi style Japanese urn is the beautiful Sakura Pink Ceramic Cremation Urn with a beautiful cherry blossom crackle effect in the glaze. And another similar option is our Large Turquoise Ceramic Cremation Urn with a unique turquoise glazed finish. Each urn has a unique appearance and is accented with an ornamental tassel.

Raku Urns

OneWorld Memorials’ raku urns are an Asian-inspired take on a beautiful ceramic Japanese urn style. Our raku urns are constructed from brass, one of the most popular metal choices in our large selection of cremation urns. The multi-colored finish on these urns mimics the Japanese urns in the same style, and the lightweight metal alloy construction ensures a durable and lasting memorial piece.

You can find this beautiful Japanese-style urn in a variety of formats, including keepsake hearts and small pet raku urns. The raku coloring is achieved when the metal is fired in a kiln and then left to oxidize, creating a unique piece every time.

Chinese Cloisonné Cremation Urns

Ceramics is one of the oldest known art forms. The Chinese ceramic tradition is among the most distinguished in the world. During the Eastern Han Dynasty, the discovery and use of a finer porcelain clay body distinguished their pottery. Enameled decoration, first applied to ceramics, was later applied in cloisonné.

With the Ming Dynasty came the emergence of cloisonné Chinese urns. Collectors Weekly website states:

In Chinese cloisonné vases, the forms were usually made of copper or bronze, as were the strips of metals used to create the cloisons, which were filled with a glass paste that was mixed with various metallic oxides (cobalt for blue, manganese for purple, uranium for orange, and so forth) to create colorful enamels.

The splendor of cloisonné pieces was often confined to display in temples and palaces.

The evolution of porcelain and cloisonné is a fascinating topic to research. Interestingly, the earliest Asian “funerary” urns were viewed as an “urn of the soul” - and were considered a “dwelling place of the deceased." Referring to the Royal Blue Cloisonné Cremation Urn, a OneWorld Memorials customer commented: “It's the most beautiful urn I found after searching for weeks on the Internet."

We offer a wide selection of cloisonne urns in various sizes and shapes. For example, this Etienne Butterfly Cremation Keepsake Heart features delicate florals and butterflies in the cloisonne style and holds up to three cubic inches of ashes which can be inserted through a discreet cap in the back of the urn. Many of our cloisonne urns can also be personalized with an engraved pendant.

Other Asian-inspired urns and cremation keepsakes are available in subtle shades of pink, lavender and blue. Many urns are handcrafted in the traditional fashion, painstakingly detailed with shifting gradients of color. Any of these oriental vases and urns would make a fine choice for a loved one who was inspired by Asian traditions, floral gardening or beautiful objects of art in general.

For a look at a curated collection of OneWorld's Asian-style urns, view the complete collection in our online store. If you’re struggling to find the perfect urn for your departed loved one, contact a OneWorld Memorials cremation specialist or visit our help center today.

J. Malec is a visual artist and writer whose work often deals with themes related to loss and healing. She lives in Minneapolis, and spends much of her time practicing permaculture in the city.