When it comes to what things look like,
the Western world is obsessed by perfection, by symmetry, and ideal proportion.
This is a taste for beauty shaped by reverence for universal laws,
mathematics, and an appetite for the perfect and the eternal.
Japanese aesthetics are, however, very different indeed,
and the core of the difference is captured in a term
for which Western languages have no direct equivalent:
a term known as Wabi-Sabi [pronounced: Wah-bi-sah-bi].
Wabi-Sabi refers to the beauty of the impermanent,
the imperfect, the rustic, and the melancholy.
It derives not from the love of invincibility, youth and flawlessness,
but from a respect for what is passing, fragile, slightly broken and modest.
Wabi-sabi believes the things are always more beautiful
forbearing the marks of age and individuality;
A trickle of glaze or a beautifully repaired crack on a piece of pottery
are to be appreciated rather than made invisible.
Wabi-sabi’s history is intimately linked with Buddhism and its suggestion
that wisdom comes from making peace
with our transitory, imperfect and unheroic natures
Kyushu, Japan. 1191.
A monk known as Eisai returns to Japan from China,
with plans to create Japan’s first Zen Buddhist temple.
Zen presents a challenge to Japan’s indigenous religion; Shinto.
Zen offers a complex philosophical system
which presents nature with its constant cycles of life and imperfect patterns
as a focus of meditation and a lens through which to understand our own transients and emptiness.
Zen will go on to be the philosophical bedrock of Wabi-sabi.
14th Century, Japan.
The meaning of two words:
Wabi and Sabi begin to evolve and become more positive than they had been.
Wabi had originally meant the misery and loneliness of living in nature,
away from human consolation,
but, its meaning now shifts to refer to
an almost exquisite bitter sweet melancholy being on ones’ own.
独处时一种微妙 惬意 又饱含伤感的情绪
Sabi, meanwhile, which had originally meant chill, lean, or withered,
started to denote the marks of aging and wear,
which can enhance an object.
It refers to a positive impermanence
and the welcome and noble signs of time.
The ancient pattern of a pot or a crack beautifully mended are now called Sabi.
Murata Shukō sits down to write a letter to his student, Furuichi Chōin.
This document will come to be known as the Letter of the Heart (Kokoro no fumi)
And will define the ideal way that one should drink tea – the tea ceremony –
and lays out the aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi.
The tea ceremony had originated as a way for monks to stay awake
in order to practice long periods of Zen meditation,
but recently it’s been overtaken by the ruling class of warlord, or shoguns.
They used it as a way of showing off expensive vessels and utensils imported from China.
The tea ceremony has become flashy, often in elaborate and gaudy surroundings,
and slipped a long way from its spiritual roots.
Now, Shuko redesign the tea ceremony wth the ideals of Wabi-Sabi in mind.
The fashion at the time was to enjoy tea on a balcony while looking at the full moon,
but Shuko claims that he has no taste for the full moon.
Instead, he urges his student
to appreciate the more subtle interplay of shadows on half of the moon,
or the partially clouded moon.
He also stresses
that one should abandon the perfect and lustrous tea drinking cups of the Chinese,
which seem to evoke the flawlessness of the full moon,
and instead to commission more rustic ware from Japanese artisans,
who will make little errors in the glaze,
and let these be a deliberate part of their work.
Sen no Rikyu is someone to the service of Toyotomi Hideyoshi,
a powerful warlord who unites the warring factions of Feudal Japan.
He commissions Rikyu to create a tea ceremony,
that can help to foster peace.
Along with Shuko, Sen no Rikyu is revered in Japan
as the father of the modern tea ceremony,
and the most perfect practicioner of Wabi-Sabi –
A story that is most often used to illustrate the spirit of Wabi-Sabi is taken from his life.
One day, Rikyu asked a disciple to clean his tea house,
and the young boy worked all day
to scrub and sweep every inch of the house and garden.
When Rikyu came to inspect it,
he reached up and shook a maple tree overhanging the path.
The sprinkling of leaves that fell brought Wabi-Sabi to the scene,
thus the manmade and the natural, artifice and random chance
were united in a perfect expression of beauty and wisdom.
Rikyu goes further than Shuko
in undermining the high taste of the shoguns,
and strips everything non-essential from his tea ceremony.
The pots he uses are often directly taken from peasant environments,
or are modeled after a particularily rustic roof tile
that he spots while walking through a local village.
Rikyu also codifies the movements of the tea ceremony,
creating the perfectly economical and graceful motions of preparing tea with a minimum fuss
thereby adding Wabi-Sabi to the very core of the ritual.
Unfortunately for Rikyu, his boss, the warlord Hideyoshi,
comes from a peasant background,
and begins to fear that the whole process
is maybe an elaborate joke at his expense.
This causes him to order Rikyu to commit harakiri.
In an eerie parallel to Socrates’ demise,
Rikyu holds a final tea ceremony among his closest friends
before obediently stabbing himself through the stomach.
Today, all the great schools of tea trace their lineage back to Rikyu,
and all follow the motions and traditions that he set out.
The maker of the humble tile that he so admired was known as Raku,
and Raku pots are still made today,
and appreciated as the greatest embodiment of Wabi-Sabi
If you take tea in the Silver Pavilion in Kyoto –
the birthplace of the formal tea ceremony in Japan,
you can drink from the same cup as the troublesome Hideyoshi once sipped from.
Matsuo Basho, the father of the Haiku, and Japan’s most revered poet,
日本最受尊敬的诗人 俳句之父 松尾芭蕉
sets off on the first of his great pilgrimages.
These aimless wanderings will take him to the heart of solitude and nature,
and help him capture the spirit of Wabi-Sabi in words.
A depressive with a great talent,
Basho takes great joy in wandering the dangerous roads around Edo disguised as a beggar.
Here he distills the fragile beauty of the sights around him
into poetry that tries to spot the eternal.
Through the fleeting moment, we can hear the beautiful desolation
in one of his most famous haiku,
Solitary now – Standing Amidst the blossoms- Is a cypress tree.
GInza district, Tokyo, 2013.
An enormous new outlet of Louis Vuitton opens
built by the Japanese architect Jun Aoki.
Fourty-five percent of all Japanese women are now estimated to
own a bag by the french luxury goods firm:
featuring Western ideals, shininess, perfection and symmetry.
耀眼 完美 对称 堪称西方美学典范
Wabi-Sabi is, like many traditional Japanese ideas,
under enormous threat from the consumerist values of the west.
Wabi-Sabi is, at one level,
an idea that relates to pottery, drinking tea, and the history of Japan,
与日本 陶艺 饮茶及其历史相关的理念
but another, it’s a lesson for all of us, for all times,
because the place we really have to come to terms with
imperfection, melancholy and age, is in ourselves.
Wabi-Sabi is a giant marketing effort
which urges us to take a second look at
what we might otherwise dismiss or treat with disdain.
It recognises that our tastes are not fixed,
and that if someone with talent and artistic grace
urges us to look more sympathetically
at some moss, a slightly wonky teacup,
or indeed, the wise, wrinkled face of a friend or relative,
we will be able to find charm and beauty here too.
Our notions of beauty and interests are relative
and open to change and improvement.
With the ideals of Wabi-Sabi in mind,
we may learn to find greater satisfaction in the humbler moments;
In a walk down a slightly crooked path,
or an overcast autumn day,
or a less than blemish free house, face or soul
再或者 陈迹斑斑的房子 面容或灵魂