Perhaps one of the basic and most rewarding purchases you can make at Mrs.Lin’s kitchen is from our wide assortment of lucky charms. Not only do we offer many miniature renderings of Asian symbols that have long been thought to bring good fortune we also carry a wide variety of Asian charms that are simply easy on the eyes.
The modern versions of the lucky charms we offer consist of porcelain pieces that are delicately hand painted, jade pieces that are artfully carved, molded pressed metal in various shapes, and also plastic pieces that are crafted to resemble wood or porcelain. They all share the common trait of being carefully constructed with much attention to detail and they are delightful miniature representations of the Japanese ancient art form of the netsuke figurine.
The netsuke figurines were originally created in ancient Japan as a decorative accent or fastener for the small baskets or pouches that were attached to the “obi” or belt of a kimono clad person for easy transportation of their small personal items as there are no pockets on a kimono to serve this purpose. At first, the netsuke was probably quite basic, and was made from an assortment of materials such as wood, rocks, or shells. As their practicality was discovered and popularity increased, they evolved into miniature art forms that were carved from pricier material such as semi precious stones and exotic ivory for those of higher status that could afford them.
The subject matter of the netsuke is ripe with symbolism, and they have been derived from Japanese folklore, history, folktales and Chinese symbols and mythology as well. To the Westerner, they may simply be charming objects d’art, but with a little background information, a whole world of meaning can be derived from this miniature art form.
For example, a single pine cone is highly symbolic of long life in Japanese culture. If the pine cone is closed, that would imply that it contains the seeds of future generations and this aspect would in turn be representative of the symbol of renewing life, or youth. The crane is a symbol for fidelity as they mate for life and for this reason is often used to decorate wedding gifts. But they are also often depicted as another symbol for long life because in Japanese folklore they are said to live one thousand years. While some people may choose to have just one symbol represented, many other well known Japanese symbols of long life such as the turtle and the crane and the pine are also arranged together in traditional netsuke to make a cohesive statement.
At Mrs. Lins Kitchen, you will find a variety of lucky charms that are made of modern materials and they can represent good luck, good fortune, good wishes and in some cases, simply good taste.
The lucky cat or Maneki Neko charm is a miniaturized version of the ceramic cat that is often seen in Asian places of business or homes. When the left paw is raised, it is said to beckon business and customers and the right paw is symbolic of bringing in wealth. You will find both versions in our wide assortment of lucky cat charms. Another familiar symbol is the lucky frog.
In Japanese, the word for frog is “kaeru” which means to return, and this play on words has evolved into the symbol of the frog becoming a charm for good wishes that your fortune and friends will continue to return back to you and is also considered a talisman for safe returns from your travels.
Although the owl in western cultures is symbolic of being wise, in Japanese the owl has another interesting meaning. As the owl is known as “fukuro” in Japanese, and the word “fuku” also means happiness, the owl is often depicted in charms and statutes for well wishes of happiness and good luck. Unlike the western characterization of the tortoise being slow, in Asian cultures it is much revered for its longevity. The crane is said to live for one thousand years, but the tortoise is noted for living ten thousand in Asian folklore.
Another long beloved good luck charm is the Japanese “Daruma” doll. Although its roots are Buddhist, the characterization of this devout follower of religion that lost his arms and legs from kneeling down and praying too long (nine years) has evolved into a symbol of never giving up. The shape of the daruma doll is rounded on the bottom and when you tilt it, it pops back up. This feature has become symbolic of persistence and of recovery from any misfortune. They are often purchased to give as gifts to someone on their birthday or the beginning of a new venture, when one eye is painted black with the wishes or intentions and the other eye is painted in when the wishes come true.
Although the Tengu or the supernatural creature that often appear in Japanese fables is fierce looking, it serves as a protector from evil spirits. In many stories they are known for their mischief making, however they have slowly evolved into a symbol of protection, especially of the forests and mountains.
Of course our collection of Asian good luck charms would not be complete without the representations of the Chinese Zodiac and the twelve animals that represent the various strengths of each sign that are beautifully characterized in our collection of charms made of porcelain and jade. These animals are believed to be the original creatures of the animal kingdom and have distinctive personalities; those born under the specific zodiacs are thought to receive the characteristics of each. We also have delightful miniatures of favorite varieties of sushi and other adorable symbols of Asian culture such as the cherry blossom, wooden clogs and miniature Japanese kimono clad children.
All of our wonderful charms are exquisitely detailed and are representative of the fine craftsmanship found in Asian design. There are numerous ways you can use the modern lucky charms to add some character and distinction to your personal effects. Looping one or more through your cell phone or Ipod is a great way to distinguish your personal devices and is sure to be a conversation starter. Adding some meaningful charms to your wallet, purse or book bag will bring some extra luck where you need it the most while adding your personal touch too. These charms are also a great way to personalize a gift to someone special in your life, tie one on to decorate a gift bag or wrapped present. Slip a few of these charms onto your personal items and those of your friends and get started welcoming some Far Eastern luck into your lives.