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  • Wabi-Sabi!

    In the West, and I suspect also in Japan, the term Wabi-Sabi is thrown around without a lot of thought to what it really means.
    To be honest, I have struggled to really grasp the true meaning behind the words wabi and sabi. And judging by the many books I have read, this struggle is shared by many.
    The most common meaning of wabi-sabi that I have encountered is plainly to ”appreciate imperfection”. This is probably best illustrated by a Bizen or a Shigaraki tea bowl, with the rough unglaced surface together with some off-center design.
    Wabi-Sabi is quite obviously two words. Again there are many explanations for each of these words. Beginning with the latter, Sabi, I chose to accept the meaning of ”the beauty of patination”. To enjoy what age has changed in an object.
    But as an example of what is not Sabi, is rust accumulated in a iron pot (Tetsubin). This is not natural patination as much as it’s neglect by the owner of Tetsubin. So one must be careful with what to label Sabi. What is natural decay and what is neglect?
    And then we have Wabi, and here’s where it really gets complicated.
    Wabi is more a feeling than anything else. The old poets of ancient Japan, always aimed to create poems that described that what is ”cold and withered. There is one month above all else, that to the Japanese, spoke of Wabi, and that was, and still is, the month of November. Well, in old Japanese litterature, October was actually the month of Wabi, but according to the modern western calendar, this is translated to November.
    To me, the month of November, perfectly describes Wabi. Cold, dark and with withered tree branches all around. Life has taken a temporary brake and yielded the stage to something most of us struggle to enjoy.

    I would love to hear some of your feelings towards Wabi and Sabi. Be it something from nature or an item, that to you, speaks of Wabi and Sabi. Or why not, only one of the two.

    Jan
    Last edited by Jan Pettersson; 10-26-2019, 01:44 PM.
    Jan - Sweden

  • #2
    Jan, I have always understood it to mean the feeling we in the west have when viewing a ruined abbey or a weathered carving.
    Ian B
    Ian Bottomley - UK

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    • Jan Pettersson
      Jan Pettersson commented
      Editing a comment
      Old, neglected and covered in moss

    • Ian Bottomley
      Ian Bottomley commented
      Editing a comment
      Jan, Is that a description of Malcolm?

    • Jan Pettersson
      Jan Pettersson commented
      Editing a comment
      Yepp! But it’s said with love

  • #3
    Yes, a ruined abbey def falls under the old and withered with an air of ”patinated” beauty.
    There’s an old moss-covered building not far from my house. I always felt that it symbolized the feeling of Wabi-Sabi. To me, anything covered in moss evokes a sense of Wabi. But the moss part is quite complicated. As with rust in a Tetsubin, moss was for a long time considered as a sign of neglect. In a country like Japan, with hot and humid summers, moss grows very quickly. Left to its own device, anything will be covered up in no time.
    The mentioning of Wabi goes way back in Japanese history. But it wasn’t until the latter part of the 16th century, that records mentioning moss in a positive way (connected to Wabi) is to be found. So what is truely Wabi, changed over time.

    Jan
    Jan - Sweden

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    • #4
      Here’s the ultimate piece of Wabi-Sabi. Orginally this was part of a water scoop from my Japanese garden. It has been subjected to the harsh elements of Sweden for over ten years (at least).
      When the bamboo handle finally broke in two, its destiny looked bleak. But just when I was about to dump it, I noticed that the surface of the scoop was covered in minute cracks, together with some really large ones. However, the overall integrity was sound. Soo, instead of the garbage heap, I now use it as a lid rest whilst preparing hot water for chanoyu.
      I think Sen no Rikyu would have approved

      Jan
      Jan - Sweden

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      • #5
        Take wabishii for example and we can find in English:
        https://eow.alc.co.jp/sp/search.html?q=わびしい&pg=1
        1. bleak(場所が)
        2. comfortless
        3. desolate(人が)
        4. disconsolate
        5. dreary(場所・人生などが)
        6. forlorn(住居・場所などが無人で)
        7. lonesome
        8. winterly
        Piers D - Japan / UK

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        • #6
          For sabishii more a lack of companionship or deeply lonely feeling?
          https://www.google.co.jp/amp/s/ejje....25E3%2581%2584

          I am somehow reminded of Wuthering Heights, or some of the Scottish border ballads.
          Last edited by Teppotai; 10-31-2019, 04:15 AM.
          Piers D - Japan / UK

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          • Ian Bottomley
            Ian Bottomley commented
            Editing a comment
            I live not too far from the site thought to have inspired Wuthering Heights and in the present weather wabi sabi barely approaches it - more Blasted Heath.

        • #7
          I would consider this as wabi-sabi. There used to be a bamboo faucet just like Jan's above . You could say this is neglect, but the rain in Holland
          keeps it filled , most of the year ,and the frogs and birds love it .

          Jon

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          • #8
            Another example of wabi-sabi , modern times...

            Jon

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            • #9
              Very nice examples! The water basin in your first picture is perfect. The origin of these water features can be traced to the earliest tea gardens in the late 15th to early 16th century. Used to clean your hand and mouth before entering the tea house. No bamboo spout were used as the sound of moving water would disrupt your focus on the tea ceremony. They were filled by the tea master in the presence of his guest.
              I would love it in my garden

              Jan
              Jan - Sweden

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              • Jon
                Jon commented
                Editing a comment
                Thank you Jan , I believe the water bowl was bought by my father on one of his trips to Japan in the sixties and had already some age on it.

            • #10
              I’ve seen some really nice tsukobai for sale during my trips to Japan. But with the heavy weights associated with these items, the shipping is a major headache.
              This one is perfect for this garden. Build a little tea house and I’ll pop over for a chanoyu

              Jan
              Jan - Sweden

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              • Jon
                Jon commented
                Editing a comment
                You are welcome anytime ....

            • #11
              1th of November means that the month of Wabi is upon us.
              I just took this picture from my livingroom.
              And no, I have not edited away the colors
              Wabi indeed...

              Jan
              Jan - Sweden

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              • #12
                Maybe this little poem by Robert Frost is Wabi...

                Nothing Gold Can Stay

                Nature's first green is gold ,
                Her hardest hue to hold .
                Her early leaf is a flower ;
                But only so an hour .
                Then leaf subsides to leaf.
                So Eden sank to grief,
                So dawn goes down to day.
                Nothing gold can stay.

                Jon

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                • #13
                  Jon; I think that poem def warrents a wabi stamp on it.
                  With your fathers garden in mind, I searched my computer for something similar regarding the tsukobai.
                  This one is from a tea garden in Kyoto that I visited in 2012. In Europe, I guess this would easily be judged as neglect. In my mind, Wabi-Sabi.

                  Jan
                  Jan - Sweden

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                  • Jon
                    Jon commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Yes, It is !This one must be centuries old. Specially love the way the water carved the stone but still holds water and the two tiny red maple leafs in the water makes it
                    complete....Thank you... I love It....

                  • Jan Pettersson
                    Jan Pettersson commented
                    Editing a comment
                    This is one reason to slow down during a visit to a Japanese garden. Such a little gem is easily missed if you don’t look carefully whilst walking around.
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