Wa-shi no heki

Miyamori was invited by Hotel Karen on Qiandao Lake in China in 2018 to create an installation for their lobby space. Qiandao Lake is a man-made lake and reservoir, also known as Thousand Island Lake, on the Eastern coast of China. Hotel Karen is a modern hotel, embracing the nature of the lake as a classic getaway from the city. During its construction and expansion of the lake, surrounding low-elevation villages were evacuated. The villages were far less modern, running on older technology with no proper road names. Miyamori was inspired by the juxtaposition of a luxury modern hotel with a more classic village, and found objects in the evacuated sites where the village mountains had become small “islands.”

Many of the villages have been underwater for over 50 years, but the remains of their history still scattered the “islands” around Qiandao Lake. Miyamori thought about the time and space of the people that had been in the area in the past and the new modernization of the lake, the old and new lives of people at this site. She used old objects she had gathered around these “islands” and covered them in washi with tree rubbings from around the lake, embracing the history of the people.

In Chinese, 和氏之璧, or Washi-no-Heki, means “Mr. He’s Jade” or “Heshibi.” It is one of the most famous jades in Chinese history, polished into a ritual bi, pertaining a jade disk with a hole at its centre. It became an invaluable object during the Warring States, first being stolen from the Chu around the 4th century BCE, then into the hands of the Zhao, temporarily being traded from the Qin in 283 BCE. After the foundation of the Qin Dynasty, the jade became the Heirloom Seal of the Realm, where it was carved the Mandate from Heaven for Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

The history of the Heshibi is a part of Chinese folkore, passed down during the foundations of the country’s history. In Chinese, the character “和” sounds like “ka” whereas in Japanese it sounds like “wa.” In Japanese folklore, there is a story of Mr. Ka, paralleling that of the heirloom in China. The most valuable stone in Chinese history, the Heshibi jade, was given as the name of this work that used objects that were outcast and rubbish to many, yet could be polished and created as something of value, like the Heshibi jade.