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. It is an aesthetic sensibility that finds a melancholic beauty in the impermanence of all things. Though for a westerner, wabi sabi simply means beauty of things that are imperfect, in Asian cultures wabi sabi has a much deeper meaning that is difficult to explain in plain words.
Originally, wabi means ‘despondence’, and sabi means ‘loneliness’ or ‘solitude’. These are words for feelings, not for the physical appearance of objects. Few examples seem to illustrate this concept better than Kakuzo Okakura, the author of the classic The Book of Tea. He writes,
Translation, can at best be only the reverse side of a brocade, – all the threads are there, but not the subtlety of color or design.”
Westerners tend to associate wabi sabi with physical characteristics – imperfection, crudeness, an aged and weathered look, etc. Although wabi sabi may encompass these qualities, these characteristics are neither sufficient nor adequate to convey the essence of the concept. Wabi sabi is not rigidly attached to a list of physical traits. Rather, it is a profound aesthetic consciousness that transcends appearance. It can be felt, but rarely verbalized, much less defined.
Defining wabi sabi in physical terms is like explaining the taste of a piece of chocolate by its shape and color to someone who has never tasted it.” – Wong & Hirano
According to Asian cultures, wabi sabi is not a style defined by superficial appearance. It is an aesthetic ideal, a quiet and sensitive state of mind, attainable by learning to see the invisible, paring away what is unnecessary, and knowing where to stop.
If you found beauty and perfection in the imperfect aesthetics shared above, be sure to check out our Inspired by the Orient board on Pinterest for many more beautiful images on the beautiful wabi sabi concept.
Parts of this article were extracted from: Touching Stone