In 1368 the same year that yoshimitsu became shogun

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Unformatted text preview: rsened. People used to say “raise the carriage shafts” or “trim the lamp wick,” but people today say “raise it” or “trim it.”21 The Essays in Idleness has long been revered by the Japanese as a veritable bible of traditional aesthetics, and indeed Kenkò’s tastes were firmly grounded in the basic aesthetic values of the Japanese, including naturalness, simplicity, suggestion, and perishability. But Kenkò may be best remembered for his articulation, in the following famous passage from the Essays in Idleness, of still another of these basic values, irregularity or asymmetry, which became increasingly important to the medieval sense of beauty: Somebody once remarked that thin silk was not satisfactory as a scroll wrapping because it was so easily torn. Ton’a replied, “It is only after the silk wrapper has frayed at top and bottom, and the mother-of-pearl has fallen from the roller that a scroll looks beautiful.” This opinion demonstrated the excellent taste of the man. People often say that a set of books looks ugly if all volumes are not in the same format, but I was impressed to hear the Abbot Kòyû say, “It is typical of the unintelligent man to insist on assembling complete sets of everything. Imperfect sets are better.” In everything, no matter what it may be, uniformity is undesirable. Leaving something incomplete makes it interesting, and gives one the feeling that there is room for growth.22 The Muromachi period was the most tumultuous age in Japanese history. During its two and a half centuries, there was almost continuous warfare in one part of the country or another. The third Ashikaga shogun, Yoshimitsu (1358–1408), brought order to much of Japan in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries by skillfully imposing his control over a group of semi-autonomous regional barons or daimyos that emerged out of the fighting between adherents of the Northern and Southern Courts. But after Yoshimitsu’s death, the shogunate steadily declined; and for its last...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.

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