Kintsugi (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as kintsukuroi (金繕い, “golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.
Lacquerware is a longstanding tradition in Japan, and at some point, kintsugi may have been combined with maki-e as a replacement for other ceramic repair techniques. While the process is associated with Japanese craftsmen, the technique was also applied to ceramic pieces of other origins including China, Vietnam, and Korea.
Kintsugi became closely associated with ceramic vessels used for chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony). One theory is that kintsugi may have originated when Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a damaged Chinese tea bowl back to China for repairs in the late 15th century. When it was returned, repaired with ugly metal staples, it may have prompted Japanese craftsmen to look for a more aesthetic means of repair. Collectors became so enamored of the new art that some were accused of deliberately smashing valuable pottery so it could be repaired with the gold seams of kintsugi. On the other hand, according to Bakōhan Saōki (record of tea-bowl with a ‘large-locust’ clamp), such “ugliness” was inspirational and Zen in a way as it connotes beauty in broken things. The bowl became valued even more highly because of these large metal staples, which looked like a locust and the bowl was named Bakōhan (large-locust clamp).