Japanese Aesthetic : the seven Japanese zen philosophy

It's hard to explain why beautiful is... beautiful. It is subjective and personal. Japanese aesthetics are very different from ours.

This is obvious when you compare a Japanese garden (above the Kōraku-en in Okayama, one of the 3 major ones) to the emblematic one of Le Nôtre in Versailles.

Or when you look at this garden (Ryōan-ji in Kyoto), considered one of the masterpieces of Japanese Zen culture. The Zen aesthetic is linked to Wabi-Sabi. And Wabi-Sabi, in a way, is about accepting imperfection and impermanence.

Originally, Wabi refers to the solitude of life in nature, away from society. And Sabi to that which is weathered, withered, thin. These meanings have evolved over time, and the combination of the two words now evokes the beauty of imperfection, of what is weathered.

Which, by the way, also includes the "imperfections" of the maker, and which can make the object more unique, more elegant.

The seven zen aesthetic principles express notions of beauty, simplicity and imperfection. You will find below those Japanese philosophies : 

  • Fukinsei (without symmetry): It is finding harmony with asymmetries, irregularities. Or balance with imbalances. Moreover, asymmetries create a feeling of movement, and give off a form of naturalness, authenticity.
  • Kanso (simplicity / modesty): it is to focus on what is fundamental, eliminating the accessory and the superfluous. There is here a form of lucidity on what is important. A desire of clarity. That one finds in the minimalist approach. In-fine, highlighting the most essential.
  • Shizen (natural): This refers to what is natural, but also to what is spontaneous, pure, unpretentious. It is a subtle notion: it is not "raw" nature. It is indeed art, craft, therefore work, but the work must seem natural.
  • Shibui / Shibumi (literally, astringent or refined taste / without impurity): it is the suggested beauty, the elegance. Something nicely minimalist, discreetly beautiful. Now it can also mean cool, classy and respectful.
  • Seijaku (calm): it is a notion of calm energy, tranquility, absence of agitation.
  • Datsuzoku (unusual/unconventional): The idea here is to escape, to free oneself, to fly away. Out of the norms, out of the habits, out of the ways. It refers to the idea of creation, originality.
  • Yugen, we have no equivalent word. It is a deep, mysterious, subtle beauty. We are in the suggestion, the evocation, the symbol. It's the guiding thread of all this is a form of harmony between what seems to be contrary: worked but natural - beautiful but modest - harmonious but asymmetrical - innovative but calm .... or, perhaps, rather to transform these "but" into "and". 

If we wish to know more about Japanese design and how to implement it for your own place. We recommend you to learn more reading our article about Japanese Decor