Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence
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Developed out of the aesthetic philosophy of cha-no-yu (the tea ceremony) in fifteenth-century Japan, wabi sabi is an aesthetic that finds beauty in things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
Taken from the Japanese words wabi, which translates to less is more, and sabi, which means attentive melancholy, wabi sabi refers to an awareness of the transient nature of earthly things and a corresponding pleasure in the things that bear the mark of this impermanence. As much a state of mind—an awareness of the things around us and an acceptance of our surroundings—as it is a design style, wabi sabi begs us to appreciate the simple beauty in life—a chipped vase, a quiet rainy day, the impermanence of all things. Presenting itself as an alternative to today's fast-paced, mass-produced, neon-lighted world, wabi sabi reminds us to slow down and take comfort in the simple, natural beauty around us.
In addition to presenting the philosophy of wabi-sabi, this book includes how-to design advice—so that a transformation of body, mind, and home can emerge.
- History: The Development of Wabi Sabi
- Culture: Wabi Sabi and the Japanese Character
- Art: Defining Aesthetics
- Design: Creating Expressions with Wabi Sabi Materials
- Spirit: The Universal Spirit of Wabi Sabi
guide our lives. It is therefore the spirit of the artist at the moment of performance that is the criteria by which art is judged in Japan. Calligraphy, for instance, which is one of the most highly respected art forms in the both China and Japan, is said to be a perfect reflection of the state of mind of the artist at the time it was written. When preparing to write, a calligrapher must summon a serene and focused mind that will guide the brush swiftly over the paper. The whole process is
the artless and the mundane. This then extends into all aspects of life—into relationships with others, our choice of occupation, and the environments we choose to live in. Slowly and without premeditation we incorporate more and more of the wabi sabi aesthetic into our living spaces until they become a natural extension of our own love of the humble and unadorned. Like the philosophy of Taoism, where wabi sabi finds its earliest roots, there is a need to approach wabi sabi design gently and
children sing, And then I take my turn. Playing with abandon I loose all track of time. People passing by point and laugh asking, “What is the reason for such foolishness?” I respond only with a deep bow, For even if I answered it would be beyond their under standing, Look around, there is nothing more than this. It was this living and thinking without clutter that Ryokan advocated, and when he saw the rather egotistic and academic tendencies in those Buddhist monks who indulged in
passed down from one disciple to another through the ages, but Zen Buddhism was to receive its inspiration from China, where the Buddhist ideas were to undergo radical changes as they passed through a culture that already had strong religious and cultural ideas of its own. The Taoist movement in China fused with the new ideas coming from India to form the Ch’an school of Buddhism, and this later became known as Zen in Japan. The essential Taoist philosophical and mystical beliefs are to be found
the main tenets of the Ch’an school. Many Chinese Ch’an masters came to Japan to propagate the Ch’an tradition, but they failed to capture a significant audience even though there was much interest in other Buddhist thought at the time. It was not until the monks Eisai (1141–1215) and Dogen (1200–1253) returned from their pilgrimages to temples in China that Zen started to catch the imagination of the Japanese. Eisai, who had become increasingly disillusioned with the lack of discipline and