Lesser-Known Japanese Aesthetic Terms: 日本美術の記述.



Anyone interested in either the historical or modern debate over a Japanese “national” aesthetic will be familiar with various modes of expressing evanescence, especially in Zen: terms as mono-no-aware, wabi-sabi, or ma. There are many others, though, which are lesser known but equally as important. The following is a brief summary of a few of them:

Ato o todome:             “leaves no trace”: art/calligraphy that neither interferes with nor             impedes, but reveals the paradoxes and significance of experiences.

Bi no o-kōku:            “Kingdom of Beauty”: an idealized state of quasi-socialist liberation from capitalist modernity desired by mingei collector and aesthetician Sōetsu Yanagi.

Esoragoto:              a picture/pictures which contain inventions/abstractions in order to capture the essence of the subject.

Fueki:                      The quality of non-phenomenal/ontological timelessness in haiku.

Fukinsei:                  Zen asymmetry.

Fuzei:                      words that describe artistic feelings/ways of seeing.

Gempitsu – tai:       “abbreviated brush”: intensity/purity of a line that captures the essence of things.

Haboku:                 “flung ink”: splashed/splattered ink painting with a few deliberate brushstrokes; genre of such paintings; a type of abstraction.

Hacho:                     intentional unevenness.

Hanshinkan:            The Hanshin Area of Western Japan: more specifically, the area between the cities of Osaka and Kobe consisting of such cities as my home city Amagasaki, Nishinomiya, and Takarazuka.

Hanshinkan Modernism:            A period of rapid economic and cultural development in Western Japan in the early twentieth century as a result of both the development of private rail lines in the Hanshin area and the disruptive effects of the 1923 Kanto Earthquake on Tokyo’s economic development. My friend and mentor Shozo Shimamoto’s  work is a significant example of post-war Hanshinkan innovation in modern art.

Hihaku:                  the blank, parallel gaps in a brushstroke created by a dry or asymmetrical brush, “filled in” by psychological anticipation of closure. Considered natural/part of the nature of a brush running out of ink.

Ichi-on-jobutsu:      “one-note-Buddha”, to become enlightened by playing a single             note on the shakuhachi.

i-guse:                    a motionless “dance” by a Nōh theatre actor which expresses an inner understanding of motion: an aesthetic “dance” of the spirit.

Ikasu:                    “let live”: another way of expressing the concept of “obeying the request of an object” as explained in the phrase kowan ni shitagau.

Kowan ni shitagau:       “obeying the request of the object” – allowing the artistic materials to dictate their final form through their own unique physical/aesthetic nature.

©2005 Daniel Schnee
©2013 Daniel Schnee.danielpaulschnee.wordpress.com.


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