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Unformatted text preview: cs of the withered, cold, and lonely. As abstract art, it may well
be compared to a scroll of calligraphy (black ink on white paper) or to a
painting in the splashed-ink style of sumi-e.
Many of the major arts discussed in this chapter, including the tea
ceremony, monochrome painting, and landscape gardening, have come
to be regarded as constituents of a distinctive “Zen culture” of Muromachi Japan. There is no question that members of the Zen priesthood
were among the leaders in the development of Japan’s medieval culture.
Moreover, nearly all of the arts of the middle and late medieval age were The Canons of Medieval Taste Fig. 41 139 Garden at the Ryòanji Temple (Consulate General of Japan, New York) governed by aesthetic tastes—such as simplicity, restraint, and a liking for
the weathered, imperfect, and austere (sabi and wabi)—which, although
not exclusively Zen in origin, certainly came to be associated with the Zen
attitude. The only serious objection to the term “Zen culture” is that it
may be interpreted to mean a religious culture. Obviously one can argue
that all true art must somehow be spiritually or religiously moving. Nevertheless, apart perhaps from certain paintings that portrayed Zen holymen
or depicted scenes associated with the quest for satori, the Zen culture of
Muromachi Japan was essentially a secular culture. This seems to be
strong evidence, in fact, of the degree to which medieval Zen had become
secularized: its view of nature was pantheistic and its concern with man
was largely psychological. 6 The Country Unified The last century of the Muromachi period, following the devastating
Ònin War of 1467–77, has been fittingly labeled the age of provincial
wars. Although its first few decades witnessed the blossoming of Higashiyama culture, the age was otherwise the darkest and most troubled in
Japanese history. Fighting raged from one end of the country to the other.
The Ashikaga shoguns became totally powerless, and the domains of
many daimyos were torn asunder either by the internecine warfare of
vassals or by great peasant uprisings.
Among those most directly and adversely affected by the Ònin War
were the Kyoto courtiers, so long the bearers of traditional culture in
Japanese history. Ma...
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- Spring '13