Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wabi, exquisite beauty in simplicity

Not many Japanese can explain what exactly “wabi” is.  If you look it up in a dictionary, it says something like the following.

Wabi is the exquisite beauty, discovered and appreciated in simplicity and calmness.

Many people know of “wabi-sabi” or “wabi”, and know a general meaning.  But once it comes to explaining the essential idea, most of them will have a hard time.

I found an interesting idea about “wabi” in a book, “利休に帰れ(Return to Rikyu)” written by a monk from a famous temple in Kyoto.

Wabi is to appreciate and limit things at the same time.  For example, people have to kill other lives to live.  You might have to kill ten cows, but you try to bear with eight.  You save two.  You make the eight work like ten.  That is the idea of wabi.  You don’t need more than what you need.

Expensive items imported from China were highly valued at the beginning of the tea history.  Such as bronze vases, celadon tea bowls or ivory tea scoops.  Wabi sprit made people think simple wares will be fine for The Way of Tea.  Rustic tea bowls and *bamboo vase and teascoop become appreciated in Wabi Tea.  The tea room is simple and it doesn’t have any unnecessary stuff inside.  That’s why a simple flower displayed in a tea room can be so brilliant.  People find the exquisite beauty in eliminating unnecessary details.
*Bamboo was a reasonable material and you could get it anywhere.

Modern life is surrounded by so many things.  Why don’t you enjoy your tea with only what you need.   You might find peace and beauty there.


  1. >>> Why don’t you enjoy your tea with only what you need

    What a good question !
    I have 4 nice kyusu, 2 yunomi, 1 guinomi, 1 chawan, about 10 different teas waiting to be drunk...not very wabi...;-(

    The difficulty is to distinguish between what we need and what we want...

    1. You are totally right. It is difficult to distinguish between what we need and what we want.
      By the way, you have many tea items! It might not be very wabi, but I like your attitude loving Japanese tea. I would like to try your tea with one of your nice kyusu, ha ha ha^^

  2. l think you've beautifully captured the essence of wabi,of Cha-do,beauty through simplicity.Like ''less is more'',a credo of the minimalist movement inspired with Japanese traditional aesthetic's beautiful when you realize this way of thinking deep within yourself.

    1. I love the credo, ”less is more”. It has something in common with wabi^^