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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 earthl 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 pure beauty of 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 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. Chapters include: 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


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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 earthl 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 pure beauty of 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 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. Chapters include: 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

30 review for Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    So, you want an excuse for why the drawer in your coffee table is broken off? Why you haven't replaced the sofa that was shredded by your cat's claws? Just tell your guests that you have chosen a wabi sabi life. You are practicing the art of impermanence and finding beauty in the imperfect. You can get away with what Martha Stewart would consider murder by invoking the ancient art of wabi sabi. The beauty of a chipped cup. The magnificence of a rusted wheelbarrow. I have personally decided to ne So, you want an excuse for why the drawer in your coffee table is broken off? Why you haven't replaced the sofa that was shredded by your cat's claws? Just tell your guests that you have chosen a wabi sabi life. You are practicing the art of impermanence and finding beauty in the imperfect. You can get away with what Martha Stewart would consider murder by invoking the ancient art of wabi sabi. The beauty of a chipped cup. The magnificence of a rusted wheelbarrow. I have personally decided to never dust or vacuum again, since dust and debris is so breath-takingly beautiful. How it glints and glitters in the sun!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lennox Brown

    For those interested in Zen Buddhism and the art asthetic that sprang from it, this book is amazing. Many of the ideas in Zen I would describe as "simple but not easy." The vastness of the concepts that inspired the wabi sabi style is difficult to put into words. (For an example of how this can go wrong, read anything by D.T. Suzuki) But Andrew Juniper is a true wordsmith and is able to explain these concepts with just a few short sentences in a way that someone with a Western upbringing can und For those interested in Zen Buddhism and the art asthetic that sprang from it, this book is amazing. Many of the ideas in Zen I would describe as "simple but not easy." The vastness of the concepts that inspired the wabi sabi style is difficult to put into words. (For an example of how this can go wrong, read anything by D.T. Suzuki) But Andrew Juniper is a true wordsmith and is able to explain these concepts with just a few short sentences in a way that someone with a Western upbringing can understand. Just as with a Stephen Hawking book, sometimes the ideas in each paragraph are so big one must take a pause and process each page before moving on. This wasn't from confusion but instead a beautiful wholesale questioning of some very basic concepts I had never examined before. Concepts such as why objects that are old and worn are more beautiful than new or "perfect" ones. What non-duality is and why it gets in the way of one's understanding of the universe. And why there is so much blank space in wabi sabi inspired drawings and artwork. Wonderful stuff. This book goes into how Wabi Sabi permeated into every aspect of Japanese life, in poetry and art and even the drinking of tea. A wonderful book, a wonderful artistic asthetic, and a potential life-changing read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tim Murray

    This book starts so well, explaining how the flaws in an object can increase how good the product is and essentially means that it is unique and there are more things to appreciate. After this the author talks a lot about tea ceremonies. Something I would be interested in but they never actually described what is involved in a tea ceremony. I found this very frustrating. The last third was the worst as it degenerates into a rant about how modern society is evil and everything was better in the ol This book starts so well, explaining how the flaws in an object can increase how good the product is and essentially means that it is unique and there are more things to appreciate. After this the author talks a lot about tea ceremonies. Something I would be interested in but they never actually described what is involved in a tea ceremony. I found this very frustrating. The last third was the worst as it degenerates into a rant about how modern society is evil and everything was better in the old days. If you truly believe this is the case then by all means go live in a cave somewhere. However, the author seems to like the sentiment yet wants to write books, run their shop and live in a comfortable house.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

    I really wanted to like this book. I have a BA in Japanese Studies and the topic was right up my alley. But I couldn't finish it (which is rare). The author's bias kept showing itself too much and his social commentary on modern society was too much. Felt like he was just another white man explaining a culture he didn't really understand. Maybe I'll come back to it, but not anytime soon. I really wanted to like this book. I have a BA in Japanese Studies and the topic was right up my alley. But I couldn't finish it (which is rare). The author's bias kept showing itself too much and his social commentary on modern society was too much. Felt like he was just another white man explaining a culture he didn't really understand. Maybe I'll come back to it, but not anytime soon.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

    I prefer reading books about art that have an artist sensibility tied to the writing. This read like Ben Stein wrote it. I learned some things but I did not get the feeling he did any field research. I felt like I was getting a lecture from a climatologist on snowboarding.

  6. 5 out of 5

    J. Lee Hazlett

    As deep and thorough an explanation of a philosophical precept as one could reasonably hope for. This book does a good job of explaining some complicated concepts without losing the reader. Most readers should be able to get maximum value out of this book with minimal foreknowledge of Japanese culture. There were many instances of odd sentence structure, particularly in regards to punctuation, which I found interrupted the flow of ideas and of my reading. This is why the book is only rated 4 sta As deep and thorough an explanation of a philosophical precept as one could reasonably hope for. This book does a good job of explaining some complicated concepts without losing the reader. Most readers should be able to get maximum value out of this book with minimal foreknowledge of Japanese culture. There were many instances of odd sentence structure, particularly in regards to punctuation, which I found interrupted the flow of ideas and of my reading. This is why the book is only rated 4 stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    D

    This was my first read about the concept. Well framed. Wabi sabi suggests: impermanence, humility, asymmetry, and imperfection. Wabi sabi is an expression of the beauty that lies in the brief transition between the coming and going of life, both the joy and melancholy that make up our lot as humans. It eschews intellectualism and pretense and instead, aims to unearth and frame the beauty left by the flows of nature. Wabi sabi embodies the Zen nihilist cosmic view and seeks beauty in the imperfectio This was my first read about the concept. Well framed. Wabi sabi suggests: impermanence, humility, asymmetry, and imperfection. Wabi sabi is an expression of the beauty that lies in the brief transition between the coming and going of life, both the joy and melancholy that make up our lot as humans. It eschews intellectualism and pretense and instead, aims to unearth and frame the beauty left by the flows of nature. Wabi sabi embodies the Zen nihilist cosmic view and seeks beauty in the imperfections found as all things, in a constant state of flux evolve from nothing and evolve back to nothing. Wabi sabi uses the evanescence of life to convey the sense of melancholic beauty that such a understanding brings. Japanese culture has been an unstoppable creative force whose influence on world culture and art rival that of any other country. Its distinction is quite astounding for a country 1/30 the size of the USA. The underlying principles of impermanence, humility, asymmetry, and imperfection are diametrically opposed to those of their Western counterparts, whose values are rooted in a Hellenic worldview that values permanence, grandeur, symmetry, and perfection. Japanese art, infused with the spirit of wabi sabi, seeks beauty in the truths of the natural world, looking toward nature for its inspiration. It refrains from all forms of intellectual entanglement, self-regard, and affectation to discover the unadorned truth of nature. Wabi sabi seeks the purity of natural imperfection. Zen Buddhists have always been wary of the pitfalls of language, and consider it the greatest obstacle to real understanding. The phrase Furyu monji, literally 'not standing on words or letters' denotes the Zen concept that no deep understanding can be transferred by the spoken word: "Those who do not know speak, those who know speak not." Trying to explain the path to enlightenment is as futile as trying to catch the reflection of the moon in a pond, and there is a tradition in Zen of maintaining ambiguity so that the mind does not get trapped focusing on the wrong thing. As humans who share the same range of emotions and who face the riddles of life, there lies within us a commonality of feeling beyond any culturally biased cognitive grasp of reality. It is to these intuitive feelings to which wabi sabi is better suited. The word wabi comes from the verb wabu, which means to languish. The adjective wabishii was used to describe sentiments of loneliness, forlornness, and wretchedness. However, these connotations were used in a much more positive way to express a life that was liberated from the material world. A life of poverty was the Zen ideal for a monk seeking the ultimate truth of a reality. Hence, from these negative images came the poetic ideal of one who has transcended the need for the comforts of the physical world and has managed to find peace and harmony in the simplest of lives. Sabi conveys a sense of desolation, employing the visual image as reeds that had been withered by frost. This pattern of use increased, as did the spirit of utter loneliness and finality implied in the term, and went hand in hand with the Buddhist view on the existential transience of life known as mujo. The concept of mujo, from the Sanskrit anitya meaning transience or mutability, forms the axis around which Zen philosophy revolves. The idea that nothing remains unchanged and that all sentient beings must die has always added the touch of finality and brings perspective to all actions of humans. Death's touch is seen as the best possible source of wisdom, for nothing can seem more important than anything else when the idea of not existing is brought into the equation. There is within the Japanese a fascination with death, and unlike the West, which tends to shy away from what might be considered morbid deliberations, the Japanese seek to harness the emotive effect of death to add force and power to their actions. With this force also comes a sense of inconsolable desolation, and it is this feeling to which the term sabi is often applied. With the great haiku poet Matsuo Basho (1644-84), the term sabi was employed as an aesthetic juxtaposition to the essence of life, and threw into focus the impermanence of our situation and the folly of trying to deny this unmovable truth. The beauty of Basho's prose, however, took the negative aspects of old age, loneliness, and death, and imbued them with a serene sense of beauty. Melancholy, an emotion nurtured in the Zen world, was used as a whetstone on which to sharpen spiritual awareness: this was not a self-indulgent self-pity, but rather a sadness tinged with an intangible longing. It was in the face of the most undesirable of human conditions that real beauty could be found and the chords of the unconscious spirit, so aware of our fragility, can be touched very deeply when our worlds are put into context. Some, like the great Zen academic Daisetz Suzuki, suggest that it is a longing for the world we left as children, the world of the here and now, undefined by language or values, just a pure experience of reality. It is a world that, at some point in everyone's children, is surrendered for the world of logic - a world that is constantly being analyzed and explained by intellectual machinations, a world that no longer is in direct contact with the present. For the Japanese, who have a long tradition of spiritual training and an appreciation for sublime simplicity, the beauty captured in the opening of a single bud or the patina of an antique bamboo vase will be far more evocative than an expression of wealth, power, or opulence. "It is an understated beauty that exists in the modest, rustic, imperfect, or even decayed, an aesthetic sensibility that finds a melancholic beauty in the impermanence of all things." As Rikyu said, "The tea ceremony is no more than boiling water, steeping tea, and drinking it." Albert Camus: Man is a creature who spends his entire life trying to convince himself that his existence is not absurd." Okakura Tenshin points out that focusing on the meaning of life tends to make us too heavy and self-important: How can one be so serious with the world when the world itself is so ridiculous? Few people are ready to take on the proposition that their own existence is ludicrous. Wabi sabi, as a tool for contemplation and a philosophy of life, may have an unforeseen relevance as an antidote to the rampant unraveling of the very social fabric, which has held humans together for so long. Its tenets of modesty and simplicity gently encourage a disciplined humility while discouraging overindulgence in the physical world. It gently promotes a life of quiet contemplation and a gentle aesthetic principle that underscores a meditative approach. Wabi sabi demotes the role of the intellect and promotes an intuitive feel for life where relationships between people and their environment should be harmonious. By emboldening the spirit to remind itself of its own mortality, it can elevate the quality of human life in a world that is fast losing its spirituality. "The heaven of modern humanity is indeed shattered in teh Cyclopean struggle for wealth and power. The world is groping in the shadow of egotism and vulgarity." - Okakura Tenshin, 1906 Wabi sabi relates to environmental issues in three ways; 1) Minimize consumption 2) Choose quality products that come from sustainable organic sources 3) Respect nature. The most radical nonmaterialism is continued today in the monasteries around the world, where nuns and monks take on the bare minimum required for a healthy life, sometimes owning a bowl, a robe, and little else. These ascetic lives are chosen to attain enlightenment, and any material possesion is seen as an impediment. True wabi sabi has inherited much of this sentiment. The life it promotes puts little store in the accumulation of wealth or objects. The tea masters chose the rustic pots and the tiny modest hut as their symbols of beauty, and in doing so rejected all the finery and fashions in vogue with the ruling classes. Ryokan: Sometimes I sit quietly, Listening to the sound of leaves falling, How peaceful the life of a monk is, Detached from all world matters, So why do I shed these tears? Living and thinking without clutter is what Ryokan advocated. When he saw the rather egotistic and academic tendencies in Buddhist monks who indulged in learning or other affairs of the intellect, he would write poems that parodied their own self-importance. The options of hedonism v wabizumai. While hedonism tends to be more appealing, it often leads to a lowering of spiritual resolve. Zen maintains that it is effort and discipline that will bear fruits, and if we wish to benefit from this wisdom, there must be a move away from the pervasive goal of instant gratification of the senses. The transition toward a simpler lifestyle, fraught as it is with difficulty, is a path only for those with a resolution to travel its length knowing that it is a path without end, yet a path with heart.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sonia

    neat little book i just grabbed at half price for the heck of it bc i wanted to be awash in some big brain esoteric stuff. i was pleasantly surprised! the author has a deep reverence for wabi sabi and its surrounding ideals. he gets a little preachy at certain points, but i was picking up what he was putting down. (had to laugh at how much he HATES city architecture though lmao) wabi sabi is the japanese art of impermanence, as the subtitle says. from the back: “it’s based on an appreciation of t neat little book i just grabbed at half price for the heck of it bc i wanted to be awash in some big brain esoteric stuff. i was pleasantly surprised! the author has a deep reverence for wabi sabi and its surrounding ideals. he gets a little preachy at certain points, but i was picking up what he was putting down. (had to laugh at how much he HATES city architecture though lmao) wabi sabi is the japanese art of impermanence, as the subtitle says. from the back: “it’s based on an appreciation of the transient beauty of the physical world. it embodies the melancholic appeal of the impermanence of all things — esp the modest, the rustic, the impermanent, and even the decayed.” the book touches on taoism to buddhism to zen, japanese culture vs western culture and ideals, what makes something feel wabi sabi, favored materials and styles/crafts, the spirit of wabi sabi, and finally the benefit this spirit can bring to the west in a world of overconsumption, excess, and environmental pillaging.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jason Keenan

    https://101booksjapan.blogspot.ca/ There is probably no Japanese concept more mentioned and less understood than wabi sabi. It seems that any exploration of Japanese aesthetics has the term thrown around — sometimes correctly, and other times wildly inaccurately. It’s often imperfectly defined as the Japanese art of imperfection. But it is so much more. Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence by Andrew Juniper serves up some clarity with its interesting examination of what is an extremely chall https://101booksjapan.blogspot.ca/ There is probably no Japanese concept more mentioned and less understood than wabi sabi. It seems that any exploration of Japanese aesthetics has the term thrown around — sometimes correctly, and other times wildly inaccurately. It’s often imperfectly defined as the Japanese art of imperfection. But it is so much more. Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence by Andrew Juniper serves up some clarity with its interesting examination of what is an extremely challenging philosophical and artistic approach. The book moves towards understanding by exploring the history, culture, art, design and the spirit of the concept and the art. Don't get me wrong, you're not getting a definitive definition here. The concept of wabi sabi is difficult to define because at its heart is a lack of codified rules, directives, or structures. Juniper’s book highlights the qualities, ideas, and approaches that make an object or way of life wabi sabi - and as importantly not. It offers a great deal of perspective to help you think about all of the ideas that make up wabi sabi. Wabi Sabi offers a step towards understanding a difficult to define concept — one that is a challenge to clearly explain inside Japan and outside. When you’re done, you’ll have a little more understanding of why a Japanese tea cup carries so much more than something to drink in its rough exterior and uneven lines.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Debby

    I bought this book for only Rp 5,000 at Periplus and it turns out to be a good book. If "Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers" by Leonard Koren is a book that explains wabi sabi in a simple and to the point manners, this book is a more elaborate version of it. I personally like this book because it gives a better understanding of wabi sabi's history, culture, spirit, and implementations in art and design. I bought this book for only Rp 5,000 at Periplus and it turns out to be a good book. If "Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers" by Leonard Koren is a book that explains wabi sabi in a simple and to the point manners, this book is a more elaborate version of it. I personally like this book because it gives a better understanding of wabi sabi's history, culture, spirit, and implementations in art and design.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Oksana Hagen

    Good. It explains, why there is no Japanese-writer book about wabi-sabi or zen. It is because it is accepted in Japan, that "those who speak know nothing, and those, who know, don't speak". Also, it gives a nice recap of the history of Zen-buddism, that puts everything in place. And after these prerequisites, you may easily venture into better understanding of the concept of wabi sabi. Good. It explains, why there is no Japanese-writer book about wabi-sabi or zen. It is because it is accepted in Japan, that "those who speak know nothing, and those, who know, don't speak". Also, it gives a nice recap of the history of Zen-buddism, that puts everything in place. And after these prerequisites, you may easily venture into better understanding of the concept of wabi sabi.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Eva Widyasari

    A simple book with condensed information about Wabi Sabi, starting from the history until the the way of Wabi Sabi itself. With some brief explanation, the author was able to cope almost all aspects of Wabi Sabi, giving the readers the essentials of this famous way of life.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dave | Storyphoria

    Really enjoy the concept of Wabi Sabi but while there was some fantastic information and food for thought the later part of the book gets a little dry.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Metal Nyankos

    It had to be tough for Andrew Juniper to write this book. Not only did he have to introduce and explain the concept of wabi sabi, but he also had to place the idea itself in it's proper historical context. He had to juggle history, culture, linguistics and philosophy and then present all of these ideas (and their interconnections) in a readable and engaging way. Juniper was successful in doing so. Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence is such a good book. Juniper infuses his rather thoroug It had to be tough for Andrew Juniper to write this book. Not only did he have to introduce and explain the concept of wabi sabi, but he also had to place the idea itself in it's proper historical context. He had to juggle history, culture, linguistics and philosophy and then present all of these ideas (and their interconnections) in a readable and engaging way. Juniper was successful in doing so. Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence is such a good book. Juniper infuses his rather thorough history lessons with interesting characters (like Sen no Rikyu and Okakura Kakuzo) and weaves a rather poetic narrative, taking us through what wabi sabi meant and means today. Juniper showcases wabi sabi's origins and underlying principles, role in the tea ceremony and traditional Japanese gardens, connection to Zen Buddhism, it's historical ebb and flow, past commercialization and corruption by wealthy enthusiasts, and how one can incorporate wabi sabi into their lives. That last part, making ones life more wabi sabi, feels like the secret focal point of the entire book. I think Juniper is a devout embracer of the idea and wants to encourage others to follow in his footsteps but, before he could share how he truly felt, he had to explain what it all meant and what it all means today. In the later chapters, sacrificially the last five, you can feel his passion for wabi sabi start to emanate from the pages. It's endearing and you can't help but feel swayed by his enthusiasm and (very) low-key arguments for making ones life more wabi sabi. This book is full of fantastic lines and quotes from other wabi sabi-ists (my term). One is by Okakura Kakuzo who wrote The Book of Tea which goes: "The heaven of modern humanity is indeed shattered in the Cyclopean struggle for wealth and power. The world is groping in the shadow of egotism and vulgarity." He wrote that in 1906, but it feels painfully on point for 2018. If you feel moved by Kakuzo's thoughts above, then you will find much to enjoy in Juniper's Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence. We need more books like Juniper's in our lives.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ta0paipai

    A more complex concept than the book explains, Juniper succeeds at simplifying wabi sabi into a materialistic concept and practice, missing the spiritual, sensual nuances. Although the book starts with a good explanation of the concept and its intertwining with Japanese culture, it ends with a silly "wabi sabi your life" guide that misses the true spirit if the concept. A more complex concept than the book explains, Juniper succeeds at simplifying wabi sabi into a materialistic concept and practice, missing the spiritual, sensual nuances. Although the book starts with a good explanation of the concept and its intertwining with Japanese culture, it ends with a silly "wabi sabi your life" guide that misses the true spirit if the concept.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marjan

    One of the best books on the subject. The language is soft, poetic and well written. Unfortunately the author fell into a trap of giving out some "design tips and guidelines" which are completely redundant and often work in a sense of limitation rather than liberation. But overall a book which is worth reading twice! One of the best books on the subject. The language is soft, poetic and well written. Unfortunately the author fell into a trap of giving out some "design tips and guidelines" which are completely redundant and often work in a sense of limitation rather than liberation. But overall a book which is worth reading twice!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This book is a great primer for learning about wabi sabi. Juniper is a bit Romantic in parts and throws around a lot of sentimentality for the topic that most Japanese people don’t seem to share. Still, it’s a good read. Definitely worthwhile if you are trying to find a way to figure out the basics of this very complicated philosophy/aesthetic.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Johann

    I read it from an architect's point of view. Great read if you want to understand some of the themes that influenced modernist pioneers like Frank L. Wright. I read it from an architect's point of view. Great read if you want to understand some of the themes that influenced modernist pioneers like Frank L. Wright.

  19. 5 out of 5

    bibliotekker Holman

    Japanese wabi sabi defies simple definition. That said, this book goes far in defining the indefinable. An interesting read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alex Petkus

    From the perspective of someone who has read a lot of Western Continental philosophy, this book has wetted my appetite for more Eastern Philosophy. I mistakenly associated Eastern philosophy as being predominantly Confucian, as Plato would be to the West; but after reading this book, I feel Confucious would better a better equivalent to Thomas Hobbes, and Lao Tzu [who was sentenced to death by Confucius, but was highly influential with Wabi-Sabi] would be more equivalent to Jean Jacques Rousseau From the perspective of someone who has read a lot of Western Continental philosophy, this book has wetted my appetite for more Eastern Philosophy. I mistakenly associated Eastern philosophy as being predominantly Confucian, as Plato would be to the West; but after reading this book, I feel Confucious would better a better equivalent to Thomas Hobbes, and Lao Tzu [who was sentenced to death by Confucius, but was highly influential with Wabi-Sabi] would be more equivalent to Jean Jacques Rousseau. Saying that, this may only be the 2nd book in Eastern philosophy I have read from cover to cover, and Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" may be more strategy than philosophy, though there is arguably some clear philosophy in that text; so my current position may be way off the mark due to insufficient knowledge, I'll find out as I dive deeper into more Eastern philosophy. Confucious always put a bad taste in my mouth, I think that always drew me away from Eastern philosophy, but Lao Tzu is pulling me in. That said, this book focuses a lot on art or artlessness; but if everything written in this only text I have ever read on Wabi-Sabi is accurate about the difficulty of nailing down exactly what Wabi-Sabi "is," it seems all the discussion of art is appropriate. This was an easy read, and I feel it is worth your time if Eastern philosophy is new to you, as it is to myself. There were some apparent inconsistencies I found, such as indicating that Wabi-Sabi uses unpolished natural surfaces so that the depth of surfaces like wood or rock and it's aging can be appreciated followed by chapters recommending to polish and shellac the wood to bring out it's features, later followed by how some beautiful Wabi-Sabi pieces of driftwood were ruined by shellacking in a way that emphasized the uniqueness of a piece. But throughout the book it was also emphasized that material can be worked with, but the material should speak for itself and not the artist speak for the material, which may also come with the difficulty of defining Wabi-Sabi; you can work it, but don't make it look like work has been done, make it Artless and not Art, which is an Art. Funny enough, I think I came across this book when looking for the Topic of Wu-Wei. It is mentioned in this book. But I think I only got a hint of a taste of Wu-Wei in this book. I believe that this text will be one of many to guide me to gain a fuller understanding of Wu-Wei, and I do believe it was worth my time. Wabi-Sabi and Wu-Wei appear to be connected, and it appears to me that I have a lot more to learn.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kavitha

    Wabi Sabi The wisdom in Imperfection Be the imperfect person you can be ! One of the interesting word which I know before coming Japan.It is always difficult to say the exact meaning and it’s more like feelings I would say. After reading this book I know the view of looking things around me in Japan definitely be different . As I write the summary , I can say everything here in Japan and Japanese are wabi sabi to me . I respect the way the hold and use the things for very long and not spending on Wabi Sabi The wisdom in Imperfection Be the imperfect person you can be ! One of the interesting word which I know before coming Japan.It is always difficult to say the exact meaning and it’s more like feelings I would say. After reading this book I know the view of looking things around me in Japan definitely be different . As I write the summary , I can say everything here in Japan and Japanese are wabi sabi to me . I respect the way the hold and use the things for very long and not spending on things more etc let’s come to this book Wabi sabi is more the aesthetic and true way of seeing people and Things . Accepting the way they are, No one can be perfect even the Nature is keep changing and not perfect. Whenever I look at the imperfect shape of cups in traditional restaurants I was wondering why , now I realized that is what making it Unique and can’t be copied. “Nothing is perfect , finished and lasts forever” Frustration comes when we except things and something else happened. The gap between reality and desire makes us feel worried smaller the gap more happy we are. Beauty is always incomplete, Impermanent and imperfect. Life will happy if we start accepting things as they are. There i found the real meaning of “Gambatte Kudasai/ Gambatinasu” - “頑”means stubbornness n could mean stretch - “stretch your stubbornness as far as possible “. Kintsugi making the broken cups or things and putting it back to gather with gold glue kind of thing . Now it has a story to tell . Scare is not to hide we can say it out Wabi sabi as a way of life more interesting “The Perfect is the enemy of Good” , accepting there is always people more successful and more beautiful than us which will make you feel Not worthless.loving yourself and thinking about our own improvement is the Best way to be Happy. Always know : Where to spend time With whom we spend more matters Making our own space Use things and keeping it longer like a old friend Not to do things to impress others Be who you are Most important Is “Danshari” which I started doing it already. Means getting rid of non essential and keeping it simple Last but not least we should always be careful with the information we feed Our minds. Start liking the imperfection , start realizing the wabi sabi in day to day and enjoy your life

  22. 5 out of 5

    jorge ibanez

    Read it if... If you are intrigued and inspired by the aesthetics of traditional Japanese art, with its attention to the melancholic representation of the traces of the passage of time. With this simple and easily accessible presentation, Andrew Juniper invites us to explore the spiritual principles of the Wabi Sabi concept, which in turn forms the conceptual basis of the Japanese artistic experience and then shows us with multiple examples how Wabi Sabi is linked to fundamental principles of the Read it if... If you are intrigued and inspired by the aesthetics of traditional Japanese art, with its attention to the melancholic representation of the traces of the passage of time. With this simple and easily accessible presentation, Andrew Juniper invites us to explore the spiritual principles of the Wabi Sabi concept, which in turn forms the conceptual basis of the Japanese artistic experience and then shows us with multiple examples how Wabi Sabi is linked to fundamental principles of the Zen school of Buddhism. Central to the philosophical scheme of Zen Buddhism is the postulate of the impermanence and 'imperfection' of reality: none of the components of our 'reality' is 'perfect' (read 'finished' or 'complete') because at all times it is in flux, moving along the continuum of its creation from 'not being' to its inescapable disappearance back to 'not being'. The Zen monks recognized in the arts an opportunity to show and value this process aesthetically, a way to share their beliefs and transfer their spiritual wisdom through art. Consequently, they played an important part in the evolution of Japanese arts in poetry, painting, ceramics and gardening among others. After a concise presentation of the concept of Wabi Sabi in Japanese history and an analysis of the intimate interpenetration of its spirit and Japanese culture, Juniper analyzes how it manifests itself in the various arts, before moving on to an analysis of the principles of design as manifested in the different arts. This is not an academic book aimed at specialists in the field, but rather a concise, accessible, and well-organized introduction for lovers of Japanese art and culture seeking further clarification on this exciting topic.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Yakov Pyatnitskov

    I liked the prose, the language and the obvious love and appreciation for the concept, for Japan and Eastern philosophy as a way of living with which this book was written. Wabi sabi as a concept is now much clearer to me even though at times the text became too verbose. The pictures in the book, even B&W were absolutely stunning and sometimes had me looking at them for minutes. Those pictures alone (a single rose, fallen autumn leaves, an elegant piece of wood) are in themselves the best and on I liked the prose, the language and the obvious love and appreciation for the concept, for Japan and Eastern philosophy as a way of living with which this book was written. Wabi sabi as a concept is now much clearer to me even though at times the text became too verbose. The pictures in the book, even B&W were absolutely stunning and sometimes had me looking at them for minutes. Those pictures alone (a single rose, fallen autumn leaves, an elegant piece of wood) are in themselves the best and only description of wabi sabi you may need. And for those who want to understand Wabi Sabi without reading the whole book here is a story from introduction: "Long ago a man out walking encountered a hungry tiger, which proceeded to chase and corner him at the edge of a small precipice. The man jumped to avoid the impending danger and in so doing managed to catch the limb of a tree growing from the small escarpment. While he hung there he became aware of a second tiger, this one at the foot of the precipice, waiting for him to fall. As his strength began to wane the man noticed a wild strawberry that was growing within his reach. He gently brought it to his lips in the full knowledge that it would be the last thing that he ever ate – how sweet it was." That story is for me the essence of Wabi Sabi and our life in a nutshell: transitory, nuanced, impermanent and yet so beautiful and so rich once we start paying close attention to it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Clare

    The author offers his interpretation of Wabi Sabi: "Wabi sabi is an intuitive appreciation of a transient beauty in the physical world that reflects the irreversible flow of life in the spiritual world. It is an understated beauty that exists in the modest, rustic, imperfect, or even decayed, an aesthetic sensibility that finds a melancholic beauty in the impermanence of all things." This definition, however, is a mere simplistic way of describing all the nuances of wabi sabi. In the book we learn The author offers his interpretation of Wabi Sabi: "Wabi sabi is an intuitive appreciation of a transient beauty in the physical world that reflects the irreversible flow of life in the spiritual world. It is an understated beauty that exists in the modest, rustic, imperfect, or even decayed, an aesthetic sensibility that finds a melancholic beauty in the impermanence of all things." This definition, however, is a mere simplistic way of describing all the nuances of wabi sabi. In the book we learn how it has its roots in Taoism and Zen and how it progressed over the centuries. It also makes the viewer of any craft, art or ceremony of the wabi sabi genre reflect on the fleetingness of life and centers thought on what is most important in life. It embodies both the work done by nature and the work done by man to create the whole of the artform. This book was a look at a culture quite different from Western sensibilities although the underlying principles of what should be most important in life is also seen in most of the world's philosophies and religions. Thoughtful in its introspectiveness, I found the subject fascinating.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Genis Cardona

    ‘The transition toward a simpler lifestyle, fraught as it is with difficulty, is a path only for those with a resolution to travel its length knowing that it is a path without end, yet a path with heart’. This is a very devious book. You bought it and read it to better understand the tea ceremony and wabi sabi pottery and art. Yet, the philosophy underlying wabi sabi drinks deeply from zen, advocates a worldview far removed from the pursuit of hedonism pervading society nowadays. Reading this bo ‘The transition toward a simpler lifestyle, fraught as it is with difficulty, is a path only for those with a resolution to travel its length knowing that it is a path without end, yet a path with heart’. This is a very devious book. You bought it and read it to better understand the tea ceremony and wabi sabi pottery and art. Yet, the philosophy underlying wabi sabi drinks deeply from zen, advocates a worldview far removed from the pursuit of hedonism pervading society nowadays. Reading this book is a dangerous decision: it may force you to question your way of living, it may plant a seed.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    This book is a easy-to-read introduction to the very deep Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi. The principals of the wabi-sabi philosophy (which basically means “the beautiful melancholy that comes from being aware that nothing in this world is permanent”) can be applied not only to the making of art, but also to the small actions of the daily life. The author has a clear way of explaining things, allowing the reader to understand the practical applications of such a complex concept. It is a good i This book is a easy-to-read introduction to the very deep Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi. The principals of the wabi-sabi philosophy (which basically means “the beautiful melancholy that comes from being aware that nothing in this world is permanent”) can be applied not only to the making of art, but also to the small actions of the daily life. The author has a clear way of explaining things, allowing the reader to understand the practical applications of such a complex concept. It is a good introduction and can inspire the reader to search for other more extensive works on the topic.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rajiv Chopra

    This is an excellent book. It is an excellent companion to Leonard Koren's book. In this book, Andrew Juniper starts by giving us a superb historical context. He also related Wabi-Sabi to the original philosophy of Tao. From there, he went on to the spiritual concepts and then on to design. He ended the book well, by giving us an example of an old African shawl, stating that the African embodied the philosophy of Wabi-Sabi more than some modern Japanese do. Overall, an excellent book that weaves This is an excellent book. It is an excellent companion to Leonard Koren's book. In this book, Andrew Juniper starts by giving us a superb historical context. He also related Wabi-Sabi to the original philosophy of Tao. From there, he went on to the spiritual concepts and then on to design. He ended the book well, by giving us an example of an old African shawl, stating that the African embodied the philosophy of Wabi-Sabi more than some modern Japanese do. Overall, an excellent book that weaves the practical with the spiritual, and some warnings.

  28. 5 out of 5

    William Anderson

    A cultural overview of a particular set of Japanese beliefs that are apparently embedded into every day customs and societies. Anecdotes, and history lessons abound not just covering the meaning of the term, or even its heritage, but giving a sprinkling of the histories, of Zen, Taoism and Buddhism as well. Overall a relaxing read, that is sometimes heavy on word use. The author skillfully depicts visuals and examples.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    It’s a short book, but Juniper should have wrapped it up a little earlier. The last few pages seem to try to be him applying wabi sabi to the Western world, a feat he earlier claims is impossible. It’s the end of the book when the “white guy writing about a culture he appreciates but doesn’t really -get-“ vibe comes out. The beginning of the book was illuminating and it was a quick and overall enjoyable read especially if you enjoy connecting art to philosophy/existential questions.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Short and informative but with poor illustrations. This quote sums up a lot: “Wabi Sabi is an intuitive appreciation of a transient beauty in the physical world that reflects the irreversible flow of life in the spiritual world. It is an understated beauty that exists in the modest, rustic, imperfect, or even decayed, an aesthetic sensibility that finds a melancholic beauty in the impermanence of all things.” page 51

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