Exemplification of Japanese Aesthetics
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Aesthetics is the field of philosophy that deals with the nature and expression of beauty. In Japan art is a way of life. A detailed appreciation of aesthetics in Japan requires complex insight of the philosophical foundations and principles behind art and art making. Donald Lawrence Keene born on 6th June 1922 in New York city is a scholar , writer, translator and interpreter of Japanese culture and literature. According to Donald Keene, (78) Japanese Aesthetics concentrates on four key qualities namely: suggestion, irregularity, simplicity and perish ability. Aesthetic can be of two forms as suggested by Marra Michele (69) in her book about modern aesthetics. Aesthetic can be inherent to the object which means it is the beauty of the objects and it is up to our taste. Aesthetic can be inherent to the subject meaning it is our imagination.
In summary, the quality of suggestion deals with the idea that art heightens to action the inner component in the formation of an object. Apart from mere observation of an object, appreciation of art requires that one understands the heart and soul of an object or that which makes it what it actually is (Datsuzoku). The quality of simplicity of design adds weight on the least possible number of art elements, natural colors use, engendering of quiet space and close and warm relationship (Seijaku, and concealment of human intervention to produce spontaneity). The third of the elements of Japanese aesthetic is irregularity. It gives significant detail on the natural beauty and meaning of non symmetrical surface. It makes no use of illusions but emphasizes on natural curves and objects roughness arts elements (Fukinsei). Finally, the element of perishability. This element deals with the utilization of life and natural objects to demonstrate specific qualities of the times and seasons. Japanese art makes use of natural objects as elements in the art and their natural state as art making or design.
Fukunsei is the principle controlling balance in composition through asymmetry, imbalance, and irregularity as suggested by May in pursuit of elegance. Its characterized by space division, in either the second or third dimensions of spatial organization using irregular division. This is the central tenet of the Zen aesthetic. The enso or Zen circle is often represented as an incomplete circle in brush painting. This as a result symbolizes the imperfection as part of existence. Nature itself has a lot of associations and relationships that are beautiful, harmonious and irregular yet well balanced. This diverse beauty is attracting and engaging. For example, the natural state of rocks in their color, shape, texture and size is very essential since a rock signifies objects in nature. There is also demonstration of asymmetry by using odd quantities like odd numbers one, three, or five mainly to avoid parallelism, and the standard verses in poems that form irregular numbers and the difference in horizontal placement or separation. In addition, rocks are used to represent mountains or buildings or other living things e.g. animals, objects like rafts and bugs, in some cases.
Example of spatial division of Fukinsei is demonstrated by Monumental Stone Lantern from Miyanoshita in the third dimension made up of length, width and height or depth. This is a great example of the eastern spatial organization that divides spaces in always asymmetrical ways thus creating irregularities. This is quit the opposite compared to the western spatial organization. To the westerners, the eastern spatial organization appears as ugly, disorganized, awry, amiss, and askew among others. And example of a second dimension eastern spatial organization is the White Prunus in spring which contains height and width.
Sand and stone Zen gardens purely use rocks and sand to represent the many elements of Mother Nature. The choice and placement of rocks in the gardens is demonstrated by the Japanese gardens (Guide to Japanese gardens, n.p). Using Japanese style called Karesansui, stones, pebbles or sand are placed to demonstrate the beauty of stones. Karesansui represents dry landscape gardens or in other words the rock gardens and waterless stream gardens. They are mainly associated with the Zen Buddhists who often place them in the rear or the front gardens of the Zen abbots residences. The karesansui rocks, sand and pebbles have the sea symbolized by sand raked in patterns that suggest rippling water.
The Ryoanji Temple gardens are the best representatives. In many karesansui gardens plants are less important and at time non existent. These gardens are mostly meant to be viewed from one perspective, mostly seated. Another Japanese garden is the Tsukiyama or constructed mountain. This term denotes hill gardens not flat ones. Basically they feature an artificial hill combined with a pond and stream and a combination of plants, trees etc. they also feature creatures like tortoises and have several vintage points along the paths, or particular temple buildings. Thirdly, chaniwa are paths leading to main tea house but not yet fully fledged Japanese gardens. This is so because Buddhists associate with tea ceremonies.
Keene, Donald. Appreciation of Japanese Culture. Tokyo: Kodansha international, 2002.
Maara, Michele. Modern Japanese aesthetics: A reader. USA, University of Hawaii Press.2002
May, Matthew. In pursuit of Elegance: Why the best ideas have something missing.
The Japan National Tourist Organization. Guide to Japanese Gardens: Outside Resource.
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