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Judith B

Wabi-Sabi: Good Books?

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I just discovered that the japanese style I love so much has a name: wabi-sabi. Do you know if there is any good book out there on that topic? Not specifically on wabi-sabi related to pottery, but more on wabi-sabi and what it is, the main principles of it.

 

Thanks :)

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This is probably going to be a controversial suggestion, but I would recommend checking out wikipedia first.  Ignore everything you read in the actual wikipedia article, but follow up by reading what's cited and recommended as further reading.  Take that stuff to heart and keep going from there.

 

I'll warn you, wabi-sabi's a nearly impenetrable concept.  It's not just a set of design principles or an aesthetic.  And most western treatments of it don't get it exactly right.  I've certainly never been able to grasp the concept completely.

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Guest JBaymore

If I may say so, not at all controversial from my point of view, Tyler.  Shows you have a good understanding of it.

 

To actually understand the concept of wabi-sabi .... you are entering a LONG (but interesting) journey, Judith.  You really cannot grasp it without understanding a LOT of Japanese cultural history (in addition to art history) at a pretty decent level.  It actually has its roots in China........ and the core came into Japan along with Zen Buddhism.

 

It's been a 40+ year journey for me (so far) including spending over 2 years living IN Japan.  I'm still learning and digesting.  It encompasses broad aspects of "life" and being, not just art.  You'll need to look into Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy ....and in particular the Zen sect.  And Confucianism (from China).

 

For example, it took me beginning to formally study Iaido (Japanese swordsmanship) to add weight to an element that is of significant import in the genesis of that concept.  In studying Iai we soon learn how incredibly quickly (and horribly) we can die by the sword.  That gut level understanding of living with the transience of life (and hence the significance of both life and death) on a daily basis was a part of the samurai class's impacts on the early evolution of the wabi-sabi aesthetic as it is know today.  Anyone in the military or police forces that has been in a serious combat situation in which death loomed very close.... has a bit of a "leg up" in understanding wabi-sabi.

 

In your research, search these terms in the Kanji form also ( it is wabi sabi): 

 

侘寂 

 

That is the actual Japanese for the terms.  Yes, it will bring up a lot of stuff in Japanese (and Chinese).   But you might find some English stuff that is keyed to them that a search of "wabi sabi" will not. 

 

best,

 

...........................john

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Wow, it sounds even more interesting now! I will definitely give it a tru even though like you said, I probably won't grasp the concept entirely, I'd love to get to know the fundamentals of this. I'll check wikipedia and with the Kanjis you gave me! Thank you so much!

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