5 Words to Learn this Month | February 2018: Yūgen, Dépaysement, Hiraeth & more


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5 Words to Learn this Month | February 2018



yūgen (幽玄) – Japanese (n) a profound awareness of the universe that triggers a deep emotional response

Japanese aesthetic ideals are most heavily influenced by Japanese Buddhism. In the Buddhist tradition, all things are considered as either evolving from or dissolving into nothingness. This “nothingness” is not empty space. It is, rather, a space of potentiality.

If the seas represent potential then each thing is like a wave arising from it and returning to it. There are no permanent waves. There are no perfect waves. At no point is a wave complete, even at its peak. Nature is seen as a dynamic whole that is to be admired and appreciated.

This appreciation of nature has been fundamental to many Japanese aesthetic ideals, “arts,” and other cultural elements. In this respect, the notion of “art” (or its conceptual equivalent) is also quite different from Western traditions..

Japanese aesthetics is a set of ancient ideals that include “wabi” (transient and stark beauty), “sabi” (the beauty of natural aging), and “yūgen.” These ideals, and others, underpin much of Japanese cultural and aesthetic norms. Thus, while seen as a philosophy in Western societies, the concept of aesthetics in Japan is seen as an integral part of daily life.¹

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