Understanding Wabi and Sabi in the Context of Japanese Aesthetics

Conference: The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies (ACCS2022)
Title: Understanding Wabi and Sabi in the Context of Japanese Aesthetics
Stream: Cultural Studies
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Alexandre Avdulov, Saint Mary's University, Canada


Whether consciously or not, aesthetics in Japan often takes precedence over other cultural elements. In fact, the whole idea of "Japanese beauty" is the very foundation of Japanese culture and the unifying medium of national identity. Though Japanese aesthetic concepts are deeply rooted in the country’s cultural fabric, it doesn’t mean that they cannot appeal to the tastes of non-Japanese. Moreover, they are well-known and appreciated abroad and have become part of the non-Japanese cultural and artistic fabric, especially in recent decades. The aesthetic concept of Wabi is probably the most well-known one outside Japan. However, it is almost always used as a part of the "Wabi-Sabi tandem". This paper will challenge the validity of using both concepts only as a tandem. While an object most often possesses qualities attributed to more than just one aesthetic concept, and there are times when applying Wabi and Sabi together works, most of the time it seems inaccurate to blend them as one. This paper will discuss the challenges of cultural borrowing and possibly wider applications of these borrowed aesthetic concepts beyond art, in such areas as education, for example, as well as a phenomenon of cultural “borrowing back” where “well-travelled” aesthetic concepts may possibly reinforce their place in their culture of origin.

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