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As any visitor to Japan will notice, the reigning aesthetic is anything but wabi-sabi. This is not a post-Western development. There has always been a tension between the tea-ceremony / Rikyu aesthetic and the Kinkakuji / Hideyoshi aesthetic. In fact some speculate that Rikyu was killed over this conflict. We shouldn't say unapologetically that wabi-sabi is THE Japanese aesthetic. It's just one of several.

Praise for this article[edit]

I am a long-time Zen practitioner and student of spirituality in general, and I must say, this is an excellent description of this concept! It truly captures this subtle, beautiful, deep and spiritual feeling quite well. Well done folks! Jan 16, 2006

I have known of this concept for the past five years or so and, through my personal lens, it has freed me for the cultural straight jacket of perfection that continues to bind and restrict true growth and acceptance of the human mind and spirit. By this I mean that Wabi Sabi has allowed me to see the imperfections in my life as the character of my life. The emotional, intellectual, interpersonal and for that matter the scratches and dents of everyday life, all mark time and bring the fallacy of perfection in true focus. I don't believe anyone of us would not marvel at the power of our wounds to heal, the way in which our most beloved objects have changed over time, have yellowed or torn in ways that only make them more valuable. I now let the newest scratches in my life act as daily reminders of the journey and its cumulative value to the meaning and intent of my life. September 29, 2006 MEH

I agree. When I read this article, I thought, this is perhaps the best Wikipedia article I have ever read. And I hope it keeps on getting better. The article is great because it makes clear one of the most difficult concepts in Japanese culture. And it does so in a remarkably neutral manner that I have found lacking in books written by opinionated authors. --Westwind273 (talk) 06:47, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
Enjoy it while it lasts. As it stands, this article is quite vulnerable to deletionists or V/RS nazis. (Sad, but true.) --Gwern (contribs) 14:54 9 March 2011 (GMT)

Plagarism deleted; contributions needed![edit]

It appears the article in its previous form was a word-for-word copy of text in the link under external links. I've deleted that text from the article and left it here. Sadly, I've labelled this article a stub now until more can be written under the GFDL. All I had time to contribute is an additional quoted definition and a couple of book references. --Ds13 05:44, 2005 Mar 31 (UTC)

removed, apparently plagarized, text... (from
Wabi-sabi is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
It is the beauty of things modest and humble.
It is the beauty of things unconventional.
The concepts of wabi-sabi correlate with the concepts of Zen, as the first Japanese involved with wabi-sabi were tea masters, priests, and monks who practiced Zen. Zen was first introduced from China around the 12th century. It emphasizes "direct, intuitive insight into transcendental truth beyond all intellectual conception." At the core of wabi-sabi is the importance of transcending ways of looking and thinking about things/existence.
  • All things are impermanent
  • All things are imperfect
  • All things are incomplete
Material characteristics of wabi-sabi:
  • suggestion of natural process
  • irregular
  • intimate
  • unpretentious
  • earthy
  • simple

Can someone check that the Kanji for Wabi-sabi in is correct ? I suspect that sabi should be the Kanji for rust, patina and not the one for sadness, loneliness. -- 20:20, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

Windows 3.x emulator[edit]

Wabi, which redirects to this article was also the name to a Windows 3.x emulator by Sun Microsystems. -- Darklock 10:43, 23 October 2005 (UTC)

Claim of origin?[edit]

The last line of the intro paragraph states: A concept derived from the Buddhist assertion of the first noble truth - Dukkha. This seems like a reasonable theory, but is there a citation or other evidence for this? --Ds13 09:44, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

Citation for programming and wiki use[edit]

This may be a request for Lumos3, since I think he/she was last to add this information to the article. Can a verifiable source be given for the claim that during the 1990s [wabi-sabi] was borrowed by computer software developers and employed in Agile programming and Wiki wiki to describe acceptance of the state of ongoing imperfection that is the product of these methods. Thanks. --Ds13 23:00, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

I heard it at a lecture on Agile I attended in London in 2004. I cannot yet find a text book source but it occurs fairly frequently in agile and wiki blogs and resources see -[1],[2],[3],[4]],[5],[6],[7],[8] Lumos3 23:34, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for trying to track something down. I looked at those references, and except for one user comment in an Extreme Programming wiki saying "I've lost a few key lines on wiki over time, but that is part of the wabi sabi of wikiwiki.", I don't see anything that would qualify as an encyclopedic source for claiming that Agile programmers and Wiki'ers employ wabi sabi. I do intuitively agree with the claim, but I don't that cuts it. The search continues... ;-) --Ds13 02:27, 16 March 2006 (UTC)
What about this quote from Ward Cunningham contained in - Of the book Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, by Leonard Koren ISBN 1880656124 , "The book inspired me to not worry about the possibility that things could be lost from Wiki. Impermanent indeed." – WardCunningham. There is much else on this page that links the thinking of early XP and Wiki designers to Wabi Sabi. Lumos3 09:39, 16 March 2006 (UTC)
Nice sleuthing. I think that quote from Cunningham is a step in the right direction. Citing wabi sabi's influence on Cunningham's WikiWikiWeb application would be fairly strong now. Thanks! I don't know enough of XP's early designers to recognize similar names and citations though. The issue remains that if the claim is broad and the citations only cover specific examples, then the claim still risks being considered speculative or original research, which is obviously not a good idea. --Ds13 20:42, 16 March 2006 (UTC)
So far we have multiple citations of its casual use in XP/Wiki discusions, a quote from Ward Cunningham using it and a couple of XP sites which link it as a resource. For what is still recent history these count as original source material and support its inclusion. I havent yet checked in text books if thats the sort of reference you want but I'm sure it will be there. Lumos3 08:54, 17 March 2006 (UTC)
This has turned into more discussion than I intended... what a pain, eh?  ;-) Sorry for the hassle but I hope we end up with something so that future readers/editors don't come asking for sources again like I did. It comes down to 1) keeping claims specific, and 2) reliable sources to back them.
The article currently makes a claim about Wiki and a claim about Agile. The Cunningham quote supports a claim about his wabi sabi and his WikiWikiWeb application, so the claim should be narrowed, since that's all we can back up (as opposed to what was in the minds of subsequent Wiki developers).
I think the casual discussion references have to be disregarded, but that's my interpretation of policy, so feel free to disagree and use them. As long as the claim is kept specific and we can point to a primary or secondary source making the same claim before, then we're not violating Wikipedia's no original research policy. --Ds13 16:46, 17 March 2006 (UTC)


Dukkha has little to do with impermanence, but rather it means pain, suffering, or hardship. I am not sure about the Japanese term, but as it stands it is incorrect to liken Dukkha to impermenance. Please edit the first paragraph accordingly. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

First, please sign your comments. Thanks for the feedback. From the Dukkha article:
Although dukkha is often translated as "suffering", it has a deeper philosophical meaning. It also contains in addition deeper ideas such as "imperfection", "impermanence", "emptiness" and "insubstantiality". "Suffering" is too narrow a translation and it is best to leave dukkha untranslated [1] [2] [3] [4].
Several cites are given for this claim. I think it's a good idea to add "suffering" and several other words to the translation in the first paragraph. These things are fuzzy. --Ds13 23:41, 25 September 2006 (UTC)
The word for "mujo" (impermanence) is anitya (Sanskrit) or anicca (Pali). "Dukkha" is usually translated to "ku" (suffering). Impermanence and suffering are standard English terms used in Buddhism, and should be treated as such in this context. Also, as this article is on a Japanese notion, Buddhist notions may be better treated in the Japanese Buddhist way. Yuji 04:05, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

WikiProject class rating[edit]

This article was automatically assessed because at least one WikiProject had rated the article as start, and the rating on other projects was brought up to start class. BetacommandBot 04:32, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

The ratings should be changed, it seems to me. Wabi and sabi are of major importance within aesthetics. I am not knowledgeable about Wiki's ways, but "Low-importance Aesthetics articles" is dead wrong. Wabi and sabi, and their conjunction are three highly important topics in aesthetics, to such a degree that anyone unaware of them would be crippled when thinking about the entire field.
On a different subject, the capitalization of these categories needs fixing. If "Start-Class" has two capitals, then "Low-importance" should be "Low-Importance." Or the other way around. My vote would go to Start-class and Low-importance, unless somebody wants to capitalize "articles," which also schitzes abaht between A and a. People who use too many capital letters tend to be Americans who also use "whom" whenever they have the faintest excuse, and often when they don't.
David Lloyd-Jones (talk) 18:51, 6 December 2015 (UTC)


Is there some special connotation in the use of the term "asperity" in describing the characteristics of wabi-sabi that would not be served by the use of a more commonly accessible term like "unevenness" or "roughness"? I'm no expert, so there may indeed be a subtle difference that calls for the use of "asperity", but if so, it should probably be explained in more detail. -- (talk) 15:17, 4 March 2009 (UTC)

Agree: asperity means roughness and has negative connotation. Whereas unevenness is meant. Any asperity would be due to the surface not being deliberately smoothed as part of the making process, eg un-glazed pottery is unglazed for simplicity, the resulting asperities are a side effect of this. Kwenchin (talk) 15:36, 14 February 2010 (UTC)

I see that somebody has felicitously added "(roughness or irregularity)" to satisfy the likes of anonymous and Kwenchin. The nice thing about "asperity" is that it brings to mind "astringency," which might also deserve a place in the list.
David Lloyd-Jones (talk) 19:02, 6 December 2015 (UTC)

Criticism of Marcel Theroux's BBC documentary Wabi Sabi[edit]

This BBC documentary is mentioned in the section on "Western Use". Is it possible to indicate that there are some serious problems with this show? I have the feeling evaluation is not exactly appropriate to wikipedia but there are several ways in which this documentary will only serve to confuse and delude. Theroux would have made a much better documentary if he had spent 5 minutes reading just this brief wikipedia entry before he wandered aimlessly around Japan inflicting his ignorance and stereotypes on several patient Japanese. Boaby (talk) 17:15, 7 December 2010 (UTC)

Cut a section[edit]

I cut out this section. "then "sabi" could be interpreted as the aspect of imperfect reliability, or limited mortality of any object, hence the etymological connection with the Japanese word sabi, to rust."

As far as I know, there is no etymological connection between 寂 sabi (the character in wabi sabi, relating to sadness) and 錆 sabi (rust). This is just a coincidence of pronunciation. I don't just want to put in a fact tag as I think it's unjustified. I note that on the Japanese page it says "同様に金属の表面に現れた「さび」には、漢字の「錆」が当てられている。" but there is no reference given for this. If this goes into the page I think it needs an explanation that the kanji is different as well as a reference. --Mujokan (talk) 20:20, 1 July 2011 (UTC)

I will return the deleted part concerning "sabi". Reasoning presented below.

The word 'sabi' in Japanese is one that existed in that language before Chinese characters (kanji) were imported. Such words are called 大和言葉"Yamato-kotoba". Kanji were imported and applied starting from around the 5th century AD for reading & writing, and eventually kanji were attached to existing Japanese words, sometimes phonetically and then later as replacement characters (当て字).

So in the case of 'sabi', the fact that there are different kanjis applied to variant applied meanings of the original word tells us very little. There are in fact many such cases of original Yamato-kotoba words that were broken out into multiple kanjis that look different yet share same reading sound and very similar meanings. Stomach, for instance, is 'onaka' おなか or お腹 ('o' is honorific) while the word for middle/center is 'naka' 中. The connection is totally obvious to any speaker of Japanese. Yet the kanjis are totally different. q.e.d.

As for the word 'sabi' we have these 2 different kanjis (note that they are often written with okurigana 'bi" indicating that the kanjis are essentially ate-ji 錆び 寂び... ). The Chinese kanji's come from quite different meanings (the former kanji's shape meaning refers to the a pure and beautiful metallic color though it later came to be applied to rust perhaps by way of the blue-green color of aged copper; meanwhile the latter kanji etymology refers to a plant or person that shrivels up under a roof, i.e. a quiet process of slowly dying) the similarity of the applied meanings is pretty clear. Rust/age on a metal surface vs. Quiet aging of a living thing. Another Japanese language reference is here: {}

FYI, the Japanese language wikipedia article also confirms a similarity between the 2 types of 'sabi'. The article mentions that the original usage of 'sabi' 寂 in Japanese verse/poetry was more of a positive one, referring to aging, but later took on significance of sadness associated with loneliness.  A similar application of the word sabi to the aging of metals is also found with different kanji ate-ji of 錆. - 寂(さび、寂びとも)は動詞「さぶ」の名詞形で、本来は時間の経過によって劣化した様子(経年変化)を意味している。転じて漢字の「寂」が当てられ、人がいなくなって静かな状態を表すようになった。同様に金属の表面に現れた「さび」には、漢字の「錆」が当てられている。 --Cielovista (talk) 01:24, 13 Oct 2012 (UTC)

Bravo to Cielovista for slapping down Mukojan's bogus edit. Cielovista's elegant explanation is entirely correct.
However the plural of kanji is kanji. A phrase like "2 different kanjis" is illiterate, except when it makes a fine distinction, as between Japanese and Bulgarian kanjis, hypothetically two different systems of writing. As with the frequently seen "Chinese putonghua," this is a distinction which seldom if ever needs making.
The error is excusable since English is probably not the writer's mother tongue. I have also corrected several of his spelling errors.
David Lloyd-Jones (talk) 19:25, 6 December 2015 (UTC)

Wabi-sabi in Japanese arts[edit]

As a student of Karate and the Japanese language for many years, I have never come across this term and I can find nothing in this article that makes me believe that Karate exemplifies Wabi-sabi. I think there needs to be some reasoning behind this otherwise almost anything Japanese could be given as an example of Wabi-sabi. Kegon (talk) 09:38, 16 October 2013 (UTC)

I tend to agree. It prompted me to Google the coincidence of the two, and the results are unconvincing. Removed it. Someone can feel free to add it back pending other findings. --Rhododendrites (talk) 13:57, 16 October 2013 (UTC)

Ahem. A gentle cough...[edit]

This article is a fine, well-informed, exposition of what wabi and sabi are about. They are two separate ideas, and their contraposition is a third.

It is perhaps a little brutal in its generality. The opening sentence, "Wabi-sabi (侘寂?) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection." is a pompous load of codswallop. I use the technical term we aestheticians apply in these cases.

Wabi and sabi are two common terms used in discussion of the various Zen Buddhist aesthetics. Aesthetics here is the plural. Zen has been around for a long time, and has many different manifestations. Neither wabi no sabi would come up immediately in describing the art of quenching a red-hot sword blade in a condemned criminal. They might be used in discussion the sword once it had cooled.

Others of equal or greater importance include Kanso (簡素) simplicity or elimination of clutter; Fukinsei (不均整) asymmetry or irregularity; Shibui/Shibumi (渋味) beautiful by being understated, or by being precisely what it was meant to be and not elaborated upon; Shizen (自然) naturalness; Datsuzoku (脱俗) freedom from habit or formula; and Seijaku (静寂) tranquility or an energized calm (quite), stillness, solitude. (Definitions by the excellent Garr Reynolds.)

This is just one of several Japanese realms of taste, and is the subject of ongoing discussion at Reynolds' fine blog,

Others, quite apart from Japanese adaptations of, e.g., French romanticism or Russian futurism, would have to include "totally goofy bubble-gum culture," 完全に間抜けなバブルガム文化, a modernism. Many other terms, as significant as goofy, wabi, or sabi, will turn up in a Google search on Japanese aesthetics.

To be charitable, the writer of this article just wandered in, and has correctly described two significant words.

Of many.

David Lloyd-Jones (talk) 18:26, 6 December 2015 (UTC)

I think this criticism reeks of cultural elitism. There are two fundamentally different concepts: (1) What does wabi-sabi mean to Japanese cultural elites and academicians? (2) What does wabi-sabi mean to the broad population of Japan? If you are going to spin off into cultural elitism, you can endlessly criticize any description of wabi-sabi. But I would argue that this article should explain what wabi-sabi means to the broad population of Japan, not to some purist cultural elites. The average Japanese person does indeed think of wabi-sabi together, and the opening sentence is the best description I have ever seen about how the common Japanese person thinks of wabi-sabi. People come to Wikipedia to know what concepts generally mean in every-day life, not what some minute cultural elite thinks words ought to mean. This article serves the purpose of Wikipedia perfectly. --Westwind273 (talk) 18:25, 20 September 2016 (UTC)