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Early Japanese Aestheticism

Updated on September 10, 2016

Overview and Origins of Japanese Aestheticism

Japanese culture has always placed a heavy emphasis on the importance of true beauty- both inside and out. Beginning with the the earliest times and rising to its peak in the Heian era, Japanese aestheticism is ingrained deep within the culture itself and continues on even in modern and current times. "Aestheticism" is defined as "the acceptance of artistic beauty and taste as a fundamental standard," and "devotion to or emphasis on beauty or the cultivation of the arts."1 This quite accurately describes not only Japan's eagerness to accept cultural influences during its expansion and growth but also demonstrates just how strongly they seemed to stress the importance and appreciation of beauty in all things. One can see how much they prized elegance simply in their words- in ancient political documents but especially in poems and literature. Even the legendary bushido code gives one the impression of being drawn extensively from different types of aesthetic ideals, though this makes up only a small part of its diverse origins. Aestheticism in Japan does not only refer to the literature and poetry of the Heian era and before- it encompasses a wide range of social, religious, political, and artistic structures in place since at least as early as the 7th and 8th centuries.

Aestheticism itself such a diverse concept that it is difficult to speak of it as a single entity. Rather, it is made up of dozens of different concepts, each one incredibly complex and idealistic. They each are different in their ways of percieving and displaying beauty. Japanese aestheticism is more than just a simple appreciation of what is considered beautiful, and certainly the standards of beauty have changed many times throughout history, but aestheticism is indeed a collection of separate ideas that make up an entire thought.2 There are a few of these aesthetics, however, that are more or less generally known, and are the most common aspects of Japanese beauty, and they are mono no aware (or simply aware), en, okashi, sabi, and yuugen. Each of these encompasses an entirely different meaning, however slight, and many of these words have even changed over time to come to refer to something completely different than their original connotation.3

It is also important to notice how the standard aesthetics evolved with the changing Japanese history. It is almost a linear progression that can be tracked in the documents and records of the Japanese people. In addition, each form of aestheticsm is related usually to a single, specific social or artistic expression, as is further revealed.

Mono no Aware and Poetry in the Eighth Century

The first and perhaps earliest concept, mono no aware (or simply aware), is described by the Stanford Encyclopedia as being "the pathos of things."4 The phrase itself was used by Motoori Norinaga in the eighteenth centry, though the literary critic and scholar had translated it with a different meaning. Although the term used to describe the idea does not seem to have been used much prior to Motoori's time, the concept has certainly been around since at least the eighth century. It is generally known in early literature and poetry as "pleasant," perhaps even calming and serene. It is difficult to perfectly describe the feeling that this artistic idea is supposed to impose on the snese- it is more than just a simple calm or serenity in beauty. It is the feeling of contentment with what surrounds the speaker, the same feeling that a deep sigh of ease can give. In the collection of poetry known as the Man'yoshu, the emotion aware was used more often than not to describe the sounds of nature.5 The following quote from the Man'yoshu delicately describes a beautiful example of this particular aesthetic concept,

"I will think of you, love,
On evenings when the gray mist
Rises above the rushes,
And chill sounds the voice
Of the wild ducks crying."6

One should be able to see the example of aware presented here. When aware is written or meant to describe this feeling of deep pleasure and contentment, one can read the words of this short poem and feel the beginnings of such simplicity in aware. Imagine you are the poet, who is describing this scene. The words are so vivid that one cannot help but feel the emotion from them, a contentment that follows the natural beauty of this landscape.

Mono no aware can further be explained, or perhaps simplified. It involves two interwoven foundations; the inherent or basic, and what is felt upon contemplation of the inherent.7 The poem from Man'yoshu fulfills both of these necessities; the author sees what he sees and is struck deeply by it, therefore the concept of aware satisfies both the feelings of the first impression (the scene at hand), as well as the author's feelings towards the impression. This particular poem well represents the meaning of aware in its original, more pleasant association.

The Changing Definition of Mono no Aware

The meaning of aware had changed in later centuries. Aware as it was described in the Man'yoshu is considered an older meaning, relevant prior to the literature of the Heian. According to Keene, the meaning of aware by this time was an aesthetic concept to be used when expressing sorrow or solemnity in a situation. Not a deep mourning, but a gentle sadness that perhaps accompanies thoughts of an ultimate conclusion to all things of beauty. The changed memory could also perhaps describe a faded memory that one looks back on with fond nostalgia. In either situation, by the time literary works such as The Tale of Genji were written, aware held an entirely different meaning all together.

Keene states that "The distinctive aesthetic standards in literature and art that eventually emerged did not represent a sharp break with the past so much as an intensifying and darkening of Heian ideals."8 He goes on to explain that the theme in Heian literature seemed to stem from the eventual death of the beauty around. The following quote from The Tale of Genji explains plainly the feelings of Heian aware:

"Genji was still haunted by the impermanence of worldly things, and now that the Emperor was beginning to reach years of discretion he often thought quite seriously of embracing a monistic life. It seemed to him that in history one so often reads of men who at an immature age rose to high position and became conspicuous figures in the world only to fall, after a very short time, into disaster and ignominy."9

This can be read almost word for word the meaning that aware held during this time period. It is the beauty, the aestheticism, that accompanies the impermanence of things. In this selection, the Emperor is growing old, and it is obvious to Genji. Despite making court life lively and beautiful, with "pomps and festivities," as it is said in the text, it was only so on the outside. The opening sentence of this passage itself is very nearly the definition of aware in the Heian era. It is a sadness due to the impermanence of beauty, or of life. A young man who becomes well-known or respected in the prime of his youth, only to fall quickly from fame and grow old without having retained that position- such is the nature of Heian aware.

A poem by the Twelfth Century poet Saigyo also describes the declining aesthetic in later times. "In spring I spend day/With flowers, wanting no night;/It's turned around/In fall, when I watch the moon..."10 Here the nostalgia of the past and the longing for the future are both present; a sadness of sorts when the poet is longing for one or the other, yet both are intrinsically beautiful.Aware slowly moved from its melancholic, sweet subtlety to its new meaning, just as many concepts of Japanese aestheticism found themselves changing to keep up with the ever changing times.

En and Yoembi, a Surreal and Visual Expression

Another early aesthetic concept is en, or perhaps yoembi or yoen, translated best in an overall concept as "charming beauty" and goes on to portray usually an illustration, or visual and physical beauty. While yoembi describes an ethereal beauty, or beauty that is charming, light, or airy, en expresses more of the feeling of the sight itself, and unlike aware which describes the feeling accompanying that sight. Yoembi is "a style expressive of the delicate, of the ethereal, of romance."11 It illustrates, in both a literal and figural sense, the beauty seen from art, clothing, and other forms of visual expression. "Indeed, if we look at the superb horizontal scroll illustrating the novel...we are struck far more by its exquisite charm than by the sadness of the scenes."12En itself is a more concrete idea of aestheticism. A concept that does not use flowery descriptions to create feelings from what one sees. An example of en might be, for example, from The Pillow Book:

"Over a thin silk robe of dark orange he wore a dazzling white one of glossy silk; his Court cloak was lined with violet, and his laced trousers were the same colour, while his trouser-skirt was of deep red material. One might imagine that his costume would have seemed too warm next to the light, cool attire of the other gentlemen...His fan, with its slender, lacquered frame, was slightly different from the others...As I looked at all the men gathered there with their fans, I had the impression that I was seeing a field of pinks in full bloom."13

The description is detailed down to each article of clothing worn by the Middle Captain, the gentleman described in this passage, but does not further illuminate anything more. It is simply an appreciation of the charming beauty that strikes the author when she sees him. A more yoembi aesthetic, however, is present in the very first chapters of the book, in which Sei Shonagon describes the seasons of the year, the times of days that are most beautiful to her, and the months that are favored by her as well. There exists in these paragraphs a more romantic, delicate depiction of beauty. It is not quite aware; in contrast to aware, which is a natural beauty, en is a more created beauty- and there is no feeling associated with en that brings to mind a serene, quiet setting, but rather a straightforward view of what most delights the person seeing the image. "In spring it is the dawn that is most beautiful...These are the months that I like the best...In fact each month has its own particular charm, and the entire year is a delight."14 Here is the key word again- charming and delightful. These are the basis of en, and even partly describe yoembi as well. The author plainly and deliberately expresses her thoughts and feelings on the matter, rather than with aware, in which the author or poet relies on the fluid description of the scene at hand to convey his or her feelings. Sei Shonagon expresses in the most simple forms her delight in these things. She even devotes an entire list, several pages worth, to "charming things."

While vivid, bright imagery accompanies both en and yoembi, and while they are both used to describe something charming, yoembi is ethereal and en is not. It is more of an imagined beauty- something that is there but not. I like the poem by Saigyo to describe yoembi: "the Spring wind/scattering blossoms/I saw it in a dream/but when I awoke the sound/was still rustling in my breast."15 This particular poem can refer to and be described by many different aesthetic ideas, but for the sake of yoembi it provides a good example. In the poem, the poet sees the spring wind which is scattering blossoms. Ethereal beauty is a beauty that is almost unnatural, surreal. Something that is not seen but makes its presence known, like the wind itself in the poem. In addition, this was seen in a dream, another surrealistic state. It is a charming scene, but not quite "real."

Okashi, a Cheerful and Unusual Beauty

Okashi is an interesting aesthetic. Similar to en, it deals primarily with the physical aspect of beauty, perhaps another type of man-made beauty, but it is not exclusively used with physical appearance. It is not so much "beauty" however that best describes what okashi relates to, and it does not seem to be tied down to any one particular meaning. The Princeton Companion defines it as, "humorous, foolish; odd, unusual...Delightful; interesting; tasteful," a very diverse group of terms to describe it just in a single source; it is then translated in Sources of Japanese Tradition simply as meaning somethign that brings a smile to one's face.16 Also, unlike aware, its meaning never seemed to change greatly to mean something serious. All of its many different definitions could be the result of slight changes over the centuries, but in general okashi has always remained the same. One of the best examples for okashi is in The Pillow Book. In one of the many lists written down by Sei Shonagon, she speaks of "pleasant things," including a boat gliding downstream and fine strands of silk. Imagine you are on the bank of a river, and suddenly a boat appears- empty or not, it is not necessarily "beautiful" in the sense that one thinks when reading about aesthetics, but it can be charming or cute, certainly an oddity, and therefore okashi. In another entry, "splendid" things: "Chinese brocade. A sword with a decorated scabbard. The grain of the wood in a Buddhist statue. Long flowering branches of beautifully coloured wistaria entwined about a pine tree."17 It is very difficult in The Pillow Book to simply pick out one passage to convey the meaning of okashi, for of all the different aesthetic concepts, Sei Shonagon's book is simply swarming with it. Indeed, the entire book is a great example of the more cheerful Japanese aesthetics; including en, as previously discussed. En and okashi both seem to leave behind similar impressions in that they both seem to describe similar ideas, with okashi being much more broad, almost as if it catches all concepts of beauty that the others leave behind. Here is an example of a passage that agrees with both en and okashi,

"Plum blossoms, whether light or dark, and in particular red plum blossoms, fill me with happiness. I also like a slender branch of cherry blossoms, with large petals and dark red leaves. How graceful is the wistaria as its branches bend down covered with whorls of delicately coloured petals!"18

Again, okashi is defined as a cheerful, happy state of mind, something that one might feel when encountering anything that makes one smile just by seeing it. Something cute, adorable, or unusual. Although en is a word to describe things that are charming, okashi is more of the feeling one gets when seeing these things. Sei Shonagon seems to have no trouble describing what she believes, and by extent the Court of the Heian era in general, to be charming, sweet things.

Sabi, Return to a Rustic Beauty

In Tale of the Heike, there is one such description that plainly describes the beauty of the scene at hand, "the young grass grew thick and the green shoots of the willow tree were tangled. The water plants on the pond, floating in little waves, might have been mistaken for brocade. On the island the purple of the flowering wistaria mingled with the green of the pine..."19 What is interesting about this quote is that it incorporates the visual, striking beauty often associated with yoembi, as it is both charming and natural, rather than man-made, but also it is possible to associate this with another aesthetic from early Japan.

Sabi, or rustic patina, is a separate term that applies to the beauty in things that have become old or aged. It is especially beautiful when something young and new is there beside the thing that is older. The term sabi can mean "rust"20 and in its aesthetic meaning, Keene gives it the definition of "to be desolate," and later, "to grow old" or "rusty."21 Indeed in this passage the author is describing the fresh, new green grass tangled in with the roots of the willow tree, which is, presumably, quite old when compared to the newly growing plants. The same description would be given to the flowering wistaria and the green pine. Flowering assumes newness, pine would be the old. In many works and analyses sabi is often seen hand in hand with two other darker concepts, wabi and yuugen, but while they all share much of the same general idea of aestheticism, sabi is much more bucolic than either of the other two. Looking again at the same passage from Tale of the Heike,

"At the foot of the western mountains they came to a small temple...The roof tiles were broken, and the mist, entering, lit perpetual incense; the doors had fallen from their hinges and the moonbeams were its sanctuary lamps. The pond and trees of its ancient garden were dignified...The sound of water was pleasant as it fell from the clefts of the timeworn rocks...The cedar boards of the roof were gaping, so that the rain, the hoar-frost, and the dew of evening vied with the moonbeams in gaining entrance, and the place appeared almost uninhabitable."22

The description given to this old temple is a beautiful, dignifed one, and the beauty of the words and obviously the appeal found in this broken-down place completely erases any notion of it being truly uninhabitable. The term bucolic means "relating to or typical of rural life; idyllic," by the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary. Sabi is a beauty found not just in something old or rustic, but simplistic, and that there is something beautiful in that simplicity. The way this particular scene is written, it has a certain type of beauty and rustic value. One does not really pay attention to the broken boards or the swinging doors; one only sees the serenity in this ancient place. It is truly sabi. "The sheen of older things connects us with the past...And since older things tend to be made from natural materials, to deal with them helps us to realize our closest connections with the natural environment."23Sabi is a concept of Japanese aestheticism that takes great delight and appreciation in what is old and faded, in a physical sense. Saigyo, whose poem follows, is well known for his use of sabi:

"This leaky, tumbledown
grass hut left an opening for the moon,
and I gazed at it
all the while it was mirrored
in a teardrop fallen on my sleeve."24

This is a great example for sabi. The poet does not ridicule the leaky, tumbledown hut, rather he notices only the brilliance of the moonlight that he can see because of it. Sabi is the beauty of the modest little hut itself, but also the appreciation for the moonlight that can now be treasured because of it. Even in The Tale of Genji, which uses different forms of aesthetics all throughout the novel, there is a quaint scene in which the character To no Chujo pays a visit to Genji, and admires extensively the rustic dwelling the prince is living in, likening it to a legendary hermit's hut. Lady Murasaki describes in detail the stone steps, wooden pillars, and even Genji's rural, peasant-like dress.25 All of these effectively convey the concept in a realistic situation brought about by sabi, but that is not all that sabi is. Like any of these aesthetics, a single word can encompass many styles all similarly related. Sabi is also reverence for that which has only recently passed, to word it simply. The moon, especially, (while also a key archetype for yuugen) is a focal point in many poems in sabi style. Moonlight shimmering sparsely through leaves or boards, or the moon itself hidden behind clouds or trees. In this way, sabi can also be taken to mean the appreciation or love of something beautiful that is no longer attainable, like a fallen leaf, dead tree, or wilted flower, but there is never an expresison of grief in any of these things.

Wabi-Sabi; The Tea Ceremony and a Simplistic, Solitary Beauty

Although wabi is not necessarily an aesthetic term on its own, it is often seen and used in conjunction with sabi. Earl Miner describes sabi as "the desolation and beauty of loneliness; solitude, quiet," and defines wabi as "a feeling of powerlessness; a sensation of great loneliness, or its cause; painfulness; shabbiness, wretched appearance.."26 27 It is almost the difference between a practitioner of Zen Buddhism and an impoverished character from a Charles Dickens novel; whereas the practitioner has chosen the life of quiet poverty and revels in his simplistic, rustic lifestyle, no matter how hard it may be, the Dickensian feels betrayed and desperate, forced into the lifestyle associated with poverty. To others, the one who has embraced Zen is revered; the one who lives in helplessness is pitied. If sabi were Zen, and the beauty of the rustic and old, wabi is poverty associated with having little to nothing in life. Therefore, they are often intertwined.

The idea of wabi-sabi is closely linked with Zen Buddhism, and because of this helped to influence the more artistic principles of the tea ceremony that sprang from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.28 Perhaps of the many aesthetic beliefs, wabi-sabi was most influenced by China, due to its relationship with Buddhism and the ancient tea ceremony.

By the fourteenth century, the tea ceremony had become quite an art form in and of itself, and sabi helped to define the ritual itself, while wabi aesthetics had a hand in the construction of the tea room. It was around this time, however, that the definition of wabi began to change as well. "Wabi...during the sixteenth century, was elevated to the highest level of taste in the tea ceremony. Professor Haga Koshiro has defined wabi as three kinds of beauty: a simple, unpretentious beauty; an imperfect, irregular beauty; and an austere, stark beauty."29 This definition differs still from the definition of sabi, though they both describe the beauty in simplicity and imperfection, the divergence in these particular definitions comes down to the old and rustic versus merely simplistic. In Essays of Idleness, Yoshida Kenko writes, "To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you...- such is a pleasure beyond compare."30Wabi takes pleasure in solitude; whether it be an impoverished solitude or simply enjoying the silence around oneself, that is wabi in its finest form.

Yuugen, the Dark Beauty and the Art of Noh

Another term one finds closely associated with sabi and wabi is yuugen. Yuugen also has its roots in Chinese culture, specifically more philosophical texts, and applies primarily to that which is remote, mysterious, and has great depth. It is one of the most difficult concepts to comprehend, and it applies to things that cannot be easily understood. It is an expression for the expressionless- defining also those things and ideas that cannot be described.31 It is a much darker term than either sabi or wabi. Yuugen delves deeper than any of these other terms; it is past even the point of aware. It was connected to sabi by Fujiwara Shunzei32, who gave the term the meaning of a deep, mysterious beauty, oftentimes also accompanied by sadness. Also like sabi, it is associated with Buddhism, but through a separate term known as mujokan33. "Yuugen does not, as has sometimes been supposed, have to do with some other world beyond this one, but rather with the depth of the world we live in."34 Saigyo is almost the epitome of this concept. He is more morbid than Shakespeare and more depressing even than Poe, yet even through this his poetry speaks with a sort of beauty in its words:

"The mind for truth
begins, like a stream, shallow
at first, but then
adds more and more depth
while gaining greater clarity."35

This poem more describes the idea behind yuugen better than actually characterizing it. If the idea of yuugen were to be described so fluidly, it would be with these words. Yuugen begins as a simple idea, but upon reflection and thought, it expands into a much greater concept. It embodies a dark beauty that is almost incomprehensible. If an object could be used to describe yuugen, perhaps the moon is the best example. We can see the moon- or most of it. If the moon is perhaps a brighter concept of aestheticism, it is the new moon, or the dark side of the moon, that is yuugen. We know it is there, but we cannot see it, and there is a mystery within that. We cannot comprehend the dark side of the moon, but it is a beautiful idea to us nonetheless. Another poem from Saigyo that perhaps better explains the moon analogy and yuugen is "Poem 393":

"Limitations gone;
since my mind fixed on the moon,
clarity and serenity
make something for which
there's no end in sight."36

This is one of the best models of the idea of depth and mystery associated with this particular aesthetic idea, but much of Saigyo's poetry expresses sabi, wabi, or yuugen. With yuugen, there are no limitations to what is there, whether one sees it physically or not. As Saigyo says, there is no end in sight, yet the extension of the world is often not seen.

Despite Saigyo being a great example to express the idea of yuugen, there is a greater, more complex literary movement and artistic form that is the embodiment of yuugen. The art of Noh is very popular even today, but rarely does one specifically relate it to this term. "The Heian poet felt aware when, seeing wrinkles in the mirror, she realized...the years of her youth had ended. But this realization was generally the end of the emotion...When a noh actor slowly raises his hand in a gesture, it corresponds to words of the text he is performing, but it also must suggest something beyond mere representation, something eternal-"37 Noh theatre is a form of expression that is often dark, dramatic, with elements of mystery and change that are incorporated into it. It is not merely the dark beauty of the images and actions of the stage and the players, but the unseen yet understood meaning behind them. Keene further explains, "Although the gesture is in itself beautiful, it is the gateway to something beyond as well, as the hand points to depths as profound as the viewer is capable of seeing. It is a symbol not of any one object or conception but of an eternal region, an eternal silence."38

Aestheticism Within History

There are dozens of aesthetics present in Japanese culture and history, most of which are associated with literature in some form. Different aesthetic ideas came to outshine others at different points in history. It is easy to make a linear connection with them- mono no aware, which at the time of its conception was considered a pleasant theme, came to be known as a sad, depressing idea of beauty in the Heian era, when Court life was at its peak and events of the past seemed dark and sad. It was a common idea in the earliest eras of society, during which the Man'yoshu was believed to have been written.

As life transitioned into the Heian, ideas such as en, yoembi, okashi, and miyabe39 came to be prominent, as each of these incorporated ideas of beauty that was present in high society and the idealized Court life. When Heian fell and a more war-like generation was brought forth during the Kamakura, times became darker, and so a return to the old was much prized as more serious ideas of aestheticism came to dominate and concepts such as yuugen became more important, especially with the development of Noh theatre. Using history and literature, one can easily see the flow of time in which each of these different concepts came to be and were most prominent.

Just as each era of culture slowly transitions into the next, different ideas of beauty emerge, and with every era comes a prominent figure or two whose writings are almost the personification of each aesthetic concept. Japanese aestheticism is an extensive and deep aspect, thoroughly ingrained in Japanese culture and society since the earliest times, and will always be an important part of traditional Japanese ideals and ceremonies, and will remain as important to Japan's history and the development of its future just as any other characteristic could be.

Sources of Japanese Tradition, Volume 1: From Earliest Times to 1600 (2nd edition)
Sources of Japanese Tradition, Volume 1: From Earliest Times to 1600 (2nd edition)

An amazing book that covers all aspects of Japanese culture and traditions since prehistoric times. A great source for any researcher or simply a lover of the Japanese culture, at any level whether beginner or expert.

Sources of Japanese Tradition, Volume One: From Earliest Times to 1600
Sources of Japanese Tradition, Volume One: From Earliest Times to 1600

An amazing book that covers all aspects of Japanese culture and traditions since prehistoric times. A great source for any researcher or simply a lover of the Japanese culture, at any level whether beginner or expert.

The Princeton Companion to Classical Japanese Literature
The Princeton Companion to Classical Japanese Literature

Pricey, but a great look at classical literary and aesthetic terms, authors, and poets. All short, sweet and to the point, an easy reference guide.

Anthology of Japanese Literature: From the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (UNESCO Collection of Representative Works: European)
Anthology of Japanese Literature: From the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (UNESCO Collection of Representative Works: European)

A wonderful, inexpensive anthology with selections from dozens of writings from Japanese literature. Edited and compiled by Donald Keene, there are several different translators so it gives a great feel for each separate genre and tale.


Endnotes, Author's Notes, and Bibliography

1Definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
2Graham Parkes, "Japanese Aesthetics," in The Standard Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. by Edward N. Zalta (Winter 2011).
3Donald Keene, Sources of Japanese Tradition (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), 197-98.
4Mono no aware is translated by Motoori Norinaga as "the sadness of things." For this essay I prefer to use "pathos" which is a more general term and can therefore possibly translate aware as "the emotion of things" rather than tying it down to mean only sadness or sorrow, which was a later concept, as discussed further into the essay.
5Keene, Sources, 197
6Author unknown, "Poem of a Frontier Guard," Man'yoshu in Anthology of Japanese Literature: from the earliest era to the mid-nineteenth century, ed. by Donald Keene (New York: Grove Press, 1955) 51-52
7Earl Miner, The Princeton Companion to Classical Japanese Literature (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1985) 96
8Keene, Sources, 365
9Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji (1008?), tr. by Arthur Waley (Random House, 1960), 342
10Saigyo, "Poem 82" in Awesome Nightfall: The life, times, and poetry of Saigyo, tr. and ed. by William R. LaFleur (Somerville MA: Wisdom Publications, 2003), 77
11Miner, Princeton Companion, 304
12Keene, Sources, 198-99
13Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book Volume I, tr. and ed. by Ivan Morris (New York: Columbia Unviersity Press, 1967) 37
14Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book, 1
15Saigyo, "Poem 75" from the Classical Japanese Database(
16Keene, Sources, 199
17Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book, 90
18Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book
19"Tale of the Heike" tr. by A. L. Sadler (1918) in Anthology of Japanese Literature, 189
20Parkes, "Japanese Aesthetics"
21Keene, Sources, 367-68
22"Tale of the Heike" in Anthology, 189
23Parkes, "Japanese Aesthetics"
24Saigyo, "Poem 388" in Awesome Nightfall, 86
25Lady Murasaki, The Tale of Genji, 251
26Miner, Princeton Companion, 295 & 303
27Different sources all seem to have different meanings of the word wabi, and few can seem to agree on its definition. Some state that it is a literary term rather than an aesthetic one, while others attribute it to aestheticism entirely. Further, some sources connect wabi-sabi and use them interchangingly or always together, and still others give wabi a similar meaning but keep it separate from sabi. *See "The Way of Tea" by Hirota in Sources of Japanese Tradition. For this essay, I present both arguments for them being different ideas but still used in conjunction.
28Hirota, "The Way of Tea," ed. by Donald Keene, Sources of Japanese Tradition, 389
29Hirota, "The Way of Tea," in Sources, 390
30Yoshida Kenko, "Essays of Idleness," tr. by G.B. Sansom in Anthology of Japanese Literature: from the earliest era to the mid-nineteenth century, ed. by Donald Keene, 234
31Keene, Sources, 365
32Miner, Princeton Companion, 304
33Mujokan is a literary and aesthetic term that loosely describes quality of life, nature, and humanity, as well as dynamic and necessary change rather than static order. Also a transitory stage for worldly things. I do not go into detail with mujokan in this particular essay.
34Parkes, "Japanese Aesthetics"
35Saigyo, "Poem 996" in Awesome Nightfall, 114
36Saigyo, "Poem 393" in Awesome Nightfall, 87
37Keene, Sources, 365
38Keene, Sources, 365
39As with mujokan, I do not go into depth with miyabe in this particular essay. Miyabe is "courtliness" or "courtly beauty" usually referring to mannerisms and courteousness in one's speech and gestures.


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