suki 数寄
KEY WORD : art history / general terms
Lit. Aesthetic liking. Most simply love for elegant things, particularly poetry waka 和歌 and the objects of the practice of tea *chanoyu 茶湯, but, at a deeper level, a paradoxical ideal that seeks ultimately to transcend taste and aesthetics. In the Heian period suki generally referred to amorous adventure with the implication that this was an elegant accomplishment to be carried out in a refined manner. In the Kamakura period suki suggested a devotion to art, particularly poetry, and the pursuit of it with a deep sensitivity often achieved by severing ties with secular society and living as a hermit. In waka treatises such as FUKUROSOUSHI 袋草紙 (ca 1156), suki is often used to describe the extreme or eccentric behavior of waka poets devoted to their art. In the HOSSHINSHUU 発心集 of 1216, Kamo no Choumei 鴨長明 (1155-1216) describes suki as solitude, poverty, purity produced by closeness to nature, and freedom from worldly defilement as a means of realizing the impermanence of existence and thus achieving enlightenment. Devotion to artistic accomplishment became concomitant with a desire for buddhahood. Thus adoption to suki aesthetics led to detachment from mundane life and to an emphasis on the retreat/hermitage as the locus of artistic creation. This taste for "aesthetic reclusion"suki-no-tonsei 数奇の遁世 greatly influenced the development of chanoyu. By the early 15c the term suki was applied to men of tea chasuki 茶数奇 (tea enthusiast), as well as poets. Suki was also applied to specific styles or tastes within chanoyu. For example, the taste for Chinese objects karamono 唐物 was termed karamono suki 唐物数奇, while the taste for native things was wamono suki 和物数奇. Suki was used to describe the small, thatched-hut *souan 草庵 type of tearoom. By the early 16c., the term suki alone was synonymous with chanoyu. Moreover, the ideal of suki formed the conceptual basis of the style of tea practice devoted to orderliness, simplicity, and aesthetic appreciation exemplified in the term *wabi わび used by the great tea-masters Murata Jukou 村田珠光 (d.1502), Takeno Jouou 武野紹鴎 (1502-55), and Sen Rikyuu 千利休 (1522-91). Suki also may include a sense of Buddhist compassion. The devotion to wabi style tea in the late 16c created the term wabisuki わび数奇. Tea masters were cha-no-sukisha 茶の数奇者 or simply sukisha 数寄者. Tea wares were called sukimono 数奇物. Tea architecture became *sukiya 数寄屋. The word suki when used since the Edo period in relation to chanoyu is usually written with the characters 数奇 (fortune and oddness). Two influential Edo period chanoyu treatises, *NANBOUROKU 南方録 (1690) and ZENCHAROKU 禅茶録 (1828), maintain that the older usage of suki 好 (also read konomi) meaning to love or to covet, remained in the practices of treasuring favorite tea utensils. Suki has come to mean refinement tinged with eccentricity, the sukisha as someone who does not bend to worldly concerns, sukimono as asymmetrical and (while appearing spontaneous) carefully contrived objects. This aspect of suki encouraged the appreciation and patronage of ceramics such as *bizenyaki 備前焼, *oribeyaki 織部焼 or *igayaki 伊賀焼. The suki aesthetic seeks to achieve the imperfect, natural beauty of wabi through controlled imperfection called naturalness. Thus ceramic glaze effects that appear spontaneous or simple rustic architectural finishes and decoration result from a rigorous and by the late 17c, carefully codified selection and refinement of techniques.


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