sabi さび
KEY WORD : art hitory & architecture / general terms
Also written 寂.

1  An idea of beauty particularly important in the tea ceremony and haiku 俳句 poetry. The beauty of materials or spaces which have been worn down over time to become withered and aged. Seen particularly in teahouses, tea utensils and tea gardens. Initially a medieval aesthetic ideal, sabi included aspects of resignation, age, decay, loneliness, detachment, and tranquility. The noun sabi derives from the verb sabu 寂ぶ (to wane) and the adjective sabishii 寂しい (lonely), and also sounds the same as the noun sabi 錆び meaning rust or an aged quality. Fujiwara Shunzei 藤原俊成 (1114-1204) used sabi as a critical quality to judge in poetry, where it referred to a mood of desolation. Sabi can also be seen in the feeling of beautiful loneliness described by hermit poets such as Saigyou 西行 (1118-90, see *saigyou monogatari-e 西行物語絵). For 15c writers such as Zeami 世阿弥 (1363-1445) and Shinkei 心敬 (1406-75), sabi became a kind of cold beauty associated with the positive qualities of kare 枯れ (withered) and hie 冷え (chill). Its presence can be detected in a range of arts during the 14 and 15c. In the late 17c, a modified interpretation of sabi was particularly important to haiku poets it was naturally an important aspect of *haiga 俳画 or haiku painting, and indirectly influenced other styles of painting related to haiku. This tendency was represented by Matsuo Bashou 松尾芭蕉 (1644 - 94) and others of his generation. See *wabi わび.

2 The colour acquired by rocks in a garden which have been weathered and corroded over time. In the Edo period, this coloring was sometimes artificially applied to rocks.


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