Essays in Idleness

Topics: Aesthetics / Pages: 7 (1563 words) / Published: Feb 28th, 2014
EAL241
Paper on Essays in Idleness
Ziman Gao The Essays in Idleness is considered one of the three representative works of the zuihitsu genre in medieval Japanese literature. It comprises two hundred and fourty-three passages written by a Buddhist monk Yoshida Kenko, who writes about Buddhist truths, death, impermanence, nature of beauty as well as some anecdotes. Although his works contain different subjects and vary in length, I find his aesthetic principles of admiration of uncertainty and simplicity in terms of nature, architecture, civilized behavior and life attitudes the main theme throughout the book. Impermanence and uncertainty is a widely discussed theme in literature works around the world, and is often regarded as the source of grief. However, the interesting part of the Essays in Idleness is that in Yoshida Kenko’s view, perishable beauty is worthier of our admiration. People normally regret when cherry blossoms scatter or when the moon sinks in the sky, but Kenko does not feel this way. He believes it is uncertainty that makes life precious, and it is its brief florescence that gives cherry blossom its beauty. In passage 7, Kenko suggests that “if men were never to fade away like the dews of Adashino, never to vanish like the smoke over Toribeyama, but lingered on forever in the world, how things would lose their power to move us”. In passage 137, he also set his attitude by criticizing the man who would say, “This branch and that branch had lost their blossoms. There is nothing worth seeing now” to be exceptionally insensitive. This is because the beauty of nature should not be appreciated with our eyes only. In fact, looking at scattered cherry blossom or waning moon and imagining a beautiful picture of cherry blossoms in full bloom, or full moon on a cloudless night is much more evocative and moving. Therefore, instead of regretting the perishability of beauty in the nature, Kenko comes to appreciate the feeling of longing for the moon

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