One of Jcollector’s most popular items is the Japanese ranma. In the West, designers and homeowners have found striking ways in which to display these architectural wonders. Above or alongside doors or windows, inset to customize coffee tables or consoles, installed as dramatic structural elements, their uses are endless.
For over a thousand years, ranma or transom panels were used in Japan to fill the space between the top of sliding doors or partition screens and the ceiling. Introduced during the Heian Period (9th to the 12th centuries), ranma allowed light and air to pass between interior rooms when the sliding doors (shoji) or fusuma doors were closed. Ranma were used in all types of Japanese buildings.
Today, ranma not only serve the practical purpose of allowing ventilation and light into the interior of a house or temple, but are exceptional works of art. Their crafting ranges from carved three-dimensional pictorial scenes and geometric slatted designs to sublime, natural wood slices of trees. Generally, the more intricately carved and three-dimensional, the older the ranma. Ranma may have black lacquered wood frames or be bordered in a natural finish.
There are many types of transom. Bold carving helps bring out the best qualities in the wood grain of one . A wonderful balanced open-work design is achieved in another. Some feature precise bars or repeating elements, others include decorative cartouches. Many are little more than a frame, employing negative space for impact, but all represent the Japanese ideal of beauty combined with function. Besides wood, bamboo is often employed in ranma as both the material and motif.
Ranma represent wooden sculpture at it best, featuring breathtaking imagery from nature, including pine, maple, bamboo, cherry and plum trees and blossoms, as well as sea and mountain landscapes. They make a unique and eye-catching addition to any interior!