Please put your name here
Please put your instructor name here
B. Background of Japan and its Culture
II. Zen Art
A. Zen Buddhism
B. What is Zen Art?
C. Influence of Zen of Japanese Arts and Culture
III. Aesthetics of Japanese Art
- Wabi Sabi and Shibui
- Wabi Sabi in Contemporary Japanese Homes
- Wabi Sabi with reference to an image
Have you ever asked your self what is art? Why is it very important to cultures? Does it have a great impact on the societies? Does it say anything about the culture? The definition of art is a very complicated thing; one just can’t simply give a definition about it. The definition of art has been debatable. But in a broad way we can say that art emphasizes the culture itself, it tells us a lot about the culture’s history and what they believe in and what art means to them. For instance, if we are visiting a very religious country, we may find their art is mainly about religion and they do their best to make the churches or the mosques look in a specular way. This is very similar to Japan; Japanese art has a very large scale of different styles it includes sculpture, Ukiyo-e (the woodblock prints), origami, ink painting, calligraphy (on silk and paper), kirigami and kirie.
The Japanese art has also a very long history extending from the beginning of human nature in Japan up till now. Over the years Japan has faced a lot of changes and invasions of new ideas that has also combined with other cultures. Through the years Japan was able to follow, incorporate and imitate new elements of the foreign countries that were similar to their aesthetic preferences.
The nature of Japan and its planet life has always inspired Japanese artistic for many years. A very large scale in Japan is used for agricultural industry. In the past every small land was used to grow food even in the small areas of the mountains. As we know that, Japanese art was influenced by the Chinese art, but the Japanese art took a different path from the Chinese one. A style of painting that is called Ukiyo-e that became known to the Westerners during the 19th century mainly through woodcuthas been developed dramatically by using colors in the portraiture, and other subjects. Ukiyo-e prints had a great impact on the Western prints. Kreisman and Mason ), state that the prints in sequence indicate the various stories which are illustrated and gathered in various levels namely the gokan. These were reasonably economical and also extensively available. Not surprisingly though, there was an extensive difference in the wide print runs in terms of value, and moreover, imitative editions were also equally popular and extensively available. Contemporary Ukiyo-e prints, per se, currently have their work spelt out as part of their exploration for prints to complete a particular series. Thus, depending on the outlook, proposing a museum-quality collection comprising of Ukiyo-e prints poses a challenge that has seen very few artists succeeding in this particular filed of art.
This paper will discuss one main type of the Japanese art, which is Zen Buddhism, and it will analyze the aesthetics of Japanese art and how they can be recognized in the Japanese paintings. First of all, I’m going to explain what is Zen, to describe Zen and understand its own professor is not an easy task at all.
Zen Buddhism started having a strong influence on the expansion and advancement of the Japanese culture, soon after its arrival in the Japanese land. With the passage of time, Zen Buddhism transformed into becoming, the spiritual and aesthetic foundation of Japan. A number of moral and spiritual values of Zen were imparted and communicated in Japan, through the practice of various Japanese arts.
Buddhism was the most complex art that have been produced in Japan; it appeared in the 7th and 8th century. During the 9th century when the Japanese began to leave China and develop their own country, the secular art became extremely important for them. In the 15th century, both the secular art and religious art have burgeoned. Painting is mainly the most preferable art in Japan; the professionals practice it. Up till modern times, the Japanese was still using the brush in their painting instead of the pen, and their ease by using brush made them very considerate and knowledgeable to the aesthetic and values of painting. The Japanese ceramics are included the most exquisite ceramics in the world. In architecture, the Japanese prefers to use natural materials and the relation between the interior and exterior spaces are very well expressed. In the present time, Japan challenges the other modern countries in the modern fashion, architecture and fashion. There are a lot of factors that contributes to the Japanese aesthetics, some of them are the topography, geography, religious beliefs, cultural relationships with unapproachable and nearby countries and lastly the climate of Japan’s islands. By studying these topics and knowing more about them we will be able to understand the Japanese complex artistic expressions.
During the extensive periods of self-imposed isolation in Japan, art forms developed in specific Japanese ways and quite a few of such art forms had a strong influence of Zen Buddhism upon them. All forms of art in Japan, like Chado which is the tea ceremony, ikebana – the flower arrangement, Shodo – the calligraphy and even the Japanese martial arts had a profound influence of the unique Zen philosophy on them. These varied forms of art were altered by Zen into a divine discipline whose focus is on serenity, plainness, minimalism and self-growth.
The people of Japan follow a tradition according to which art is learnt not merely for the sake of learning the art, but also for purposes that have spiritual values. Art would transform into peaceful journey, when practiced with Zen principles in mind, and could also become a way of self-cultivation resulting in minimalism, tranquility and concentration. Zen teachings with relation to arts predominantly focus on the significance of the unity of the mind and the body, as this is highly essential for anybody to master a particular art form. While an art is practiced with a Zen attitude, the mind remains in the present and it would be in a state where it is fully aware of the deceptive nature of material life. It is perhaps perfect to state that Japan would probably have never ever reached its extreme level of sophistication and refinement in the arts without Zen.
As professor David Suzuki said “Zen must be understood from the inside, not from the outside. One must first attain what I call Prajna- intuition and then proceed to the study of all its objectified expressions. To try to get into Zen by collecting the so-called historical materials and to come to conclusion and this will definitely characterize Zen as Zen. Zen in itself, or Zen as each of us lives it in his innermost being, is not the right approach.” The image given here is the picture of a Zen garden of Ryoan-ji which was built during the Higashiyama period. The entire garden echoes the Zen art.
There are three major schools that adopted the principles of Buddhism which are; the first school is, The Holy Way (Shodo), which was presented by the Kegon Sect of the Nara Period (710-794) and Shingon Sects during Heian Period (794-1185). Secondly, The Pure Land (jodo) it was formed by Genshin in the middle years of Heian Period, later it was improved by Shinran during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). Lastly, Rinzai Zen of Muromachi represented Zen; and it during Kamakura Period.Thebeginnings of Zen are found in India, as the Buddhist religion was originally based in India.
The 28th patriarch, Bodhi Dharma went to China in 527, from South India and started the Zen in China at that time. Zen has truly developed into a complete individualistic Buddhist school at the early time of the T’ang dynasty with the help of Hui-neng teaching. What made people accept Zen in China is that it’s very similar to Taoism, which was very famous in China at that time. Zen was introduced in Japan in the early beginnings of the Nara period, but in the same time, it took a lot of time to be independently established, not before 1200. Zen has a great impact on the Japanese people nowadays, it’s popularity and repercussion is increasing everyday. To extend, especially in Japan, that it has an essential influence upon how people think and live. We can see its influences in the Japanese traditional culture, for example architecture, poetry (Haiku), Cha-no-Yu, art and pantomime dance.
Zen art usually prevents the matters that talks about heaven and divine, also the matters that talks about earth and human. Moreover, Bodhi Dharma was the most common religious topic and in his paintings he was not subjected as God but as a normal man who is close to the nature. As David Suzuki said “Zen brought God in Heaven down to earth.” The main topic that the Zen artistic was focusing on is the beauty of nature and life itself. A Zen artist said before that “ Western paintings is painting of the eye, Zen painting is painting of the idea.” Indeed, Zen art is much better than the Western art, because Zen art focuses on the idea and it defines the inner spirit of the subject. Furthermore, we have found that nature is an essential idea in Zen art.
Aesthetics of Japanese Art
The second element on which this paper focuses is on the aesthetics of Japanese art with reference to a particular image. Although Zen was originally imported from the land of China, the aesthetic sense of the same is supposedly highly distinct from the Chinese perceptions of beauty. Zen has an exceptional and distinctive aesthetic, which encompasses a great appreciation for reasonableness, asymmetry, imperfection, rusticity, and artlessness. This concept of Zen aesthetic is named as Wabi-sabi, and it looks at beauty in things which are defective, transient, and half-finished. Wabi-sabi, in art, is demonstrated in meek, self-effacing, unpretentious and earthly art works. Wabi-Sabi is candid, unpretentious, and is intensely connected with love for nature. The values of rusticity, elegance, quiet taste, and refined beauty, upon which Wabi Sabi is grounded, have been offering great degree of inspiration to Japanese artists for hundreds of decades now, and Japanese artists, even today, are inspired by these values.
Shibui is a Japanese word that is used to define a specific aesthetic of natural, elusive, and modest beauty. Analogous to forms of other aesthetic phrases used in the Japanese art, for instance wabi-sabi, and iki, Shibui infers exceptional qualities of a wide assortment of topics, which not just deal with art or style alone but have a much broader connotation. In the book Iberia written by James A. Michener, 'Shibui' has been explained as, "The Japanese have a word which summarizes all the best in Japanese life, yet it has no explanation and cannot be translated. It is the word Shibui, and the best approximation to its meaning is 'acerbic good taste'".
Generally simplicity is the one aspect that is associated with a myriad range of qualities like austere, unadorned, and modest and thus anything which is more sophisticate does not come under the category of Shibui. An idyllic instance is the candor of the core part of a conventional Japanese residence.
Greene and Greene architectural designers were another form of designs. The design of the Greene and Greene house is significant not just because of the massive feeling of safety that comes with the overly-supported design, but also for its emphasis of the indispensable nature of the Arts and Crafts basics in the Greene & Greene technique. Moreover, the visual meaning of the artistic nature employed in the pegs, joints, and multifaceted wood-work denotes what the house contains in terms of structure. Generally, the design of the house takes the form of an externalized structure, or exploded, instead of one concealed in decoration, as every aspect of the structure emphasizes itself.
Motifs that portrayed nature were among the most popular designs that people sought for flower vases, dishes, cutleries, crockeries and a variety of other household accessories. All these were made by various organizations dealing with art and craft, which that started flourishing globally in relation to the various techniques used by the Japanese craftsmen and the same even, charmed the decorators in China as well. Asymmetrical designs garnered more and more popularity world over. Apart from the asymmetrical designs, one other aspect that caught the attention of art potters world over, especially in the United States were the Glaze effects. The image given above is a wabi sabi style motif. The paired images on the head and foot of the above lantern are done through simplified greying. Typically there is abundant space for storage of the items in appropriate place and even for the items that are rarely used. However in case of inside and outside plates get detached then that remains in a more instants is a roof held by limited posts where individuals propel to the outer environment.
In a nutshell, it is clear that Japanese arts and crafts are a remarkable blend of ancient traditions as well as other oriental arts and their respective heritages. An evident example of the same is the Aesthetic movement that carried the appreciation and veneration for the Eastern design ideas to newer levels and also in the advancement of the Arts & Crafts era that flourished for a decent period.
al., Rago et. The Arts & Crafts Collector's Guide. NY: Gibbs Smith, 2005.
Antique-Arts. The Arts and Crafts movement, its style and its influences, from William Morris to Gustav Stickley and William de Morgan. 2010. 15 February 2011 <http://www.antique-marks.com/arts-and-crafts.html>.
Benjamin, W. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." (ed.), Hannah Arendt. Illuminations, trans. H. Zohn. Glasgow: Fontana, 1973.
Binzen, Kevin P. Rodel and Jonathan. Arts & Crafts furnityre: From Classic to Contemporary. Washington DC: Taunton Press, 2003.
Bushido Design. Zen Buddhism. 2010. 17 May 2014 <http://zen-buddhism.net/arts/zen-and-arts.html>.
Kohaku River. Some Words about Grayling. 29 November 2011. 16 May 2014 <http://www.kohaku-river.net/1/archives/11-2011/1.html>.
Mason, Lawrence Kreisman and Glenn W. The Arts & Crafts Movement in the Pacific Northwest. NY: Timber Press, 2007.
Meiste, Maureen. Architecture and the arts and crafts movement in Boston: Harvard's H. Langford Warren. NY: UPNE, 2003.
Michener, James A. Iberia. A Fawcett Crest Book reprinted by arrangement with Random House, Inc., 1968.
Rice, William. "Her Art and Craft - A movement and a park setting inspire the chef." Chicago Tribune 26 July 1998: 26.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Arts and Crafts Movement in America. 2011. 15 February 2011 <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/acam/hd_acam.htm>.