Along with the courtiers the gozan zen priests

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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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