Tenderly, I touched all things
Knowing that they do not last
~ After St. John of the Cross (1542-91)
Japanese’s most sublime cultural legacy is the principle of Wabi-Sabi, the philosophy of accepting imperfections in nature and in life. The word Wabi connotes rustic simplicity. It can also mean imperfections such as a small flaw in a vase which gives it a unique beauty. Sabi is the complementary concept, denoting the beauty of age, which in the art, is revealed by the surface patina that comes with weathering or use. Taken together, art that embodies the Wabi-Sabi principle exemplifies the respect of things humble, imperfect and impermanent. In Japanese culture, the examples that come to mind are the rustic simplicity of Zen gardens, the unrefined beauty of an old glazed vase, or the poetic arrangement of flowers known as ikebana.
Watch: “The Art of Impermanence“
A video tour of Japanese artworks from the John C. Weber Collection and the collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller III, highlighting the wabi sabi aspects of Japanese art through the ages. Produced by the Asia Society Museum, New York (duration: 14:06 mins).