|Gerasimova M. Shinto Influence on the Aesthetic Consciousness of the Japanese|
Shinto Influence on the Aesthetic Consciousness of the Japanese
Maya Gerasimova, Doctor of Philology, Senior Researcher, of the Centre of Japanese Studies, The Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences
A great number of works on the influence of shintoist world outlook on the Japanese national character, and especially on the aesthetic consciousness of the Japanese has been written in the course of last centuries in Japan and far beyond its islands. Most of them are concentrated on the concept of mono-no aware, known as aesthetic cathegory from the Heian period, - period of the formation of the Japanese classical cultural heritage.It seems to be of interest to add some thoughts to the meaning of mono-no aware, which can bring light to the very special problem of why there was no deep difference between the art and the craft in Japan and why we can say, that the art had a special role in everyday life of the Japanese.
It is generally expected, that mono-no aware is interpreted as human's emotional response to the kokoro - the soul, which, as the Japanese believed, existed in everything, what surrounded a human, or with what he had to deal with during his life, including concepts, actions, phenomena. As for aware, it is explained as the movement of human's soul, when he gets in contact with the soul of other things. The dictionaries of archaisms also explain "aware" as "the feeling, which connects person with this or that thing". Usually along with delight, sorrow and love, regarded as human's "main feelings", sympathy is pointed out in every case. While on the topic, the explanatory dictionaries of modern Japanese, treating the meaning of widely spread notion "ninjo" (literaly "human feelings") also point out along with delight, sorrow, and love the feeling of sympathy.
It is necessary to emphasize, that from the ancient time sympathy - nasake - was regarded as one of the most "natural" human feeling. Moreover, the sympathy nasakewas the synonym of good taste and delicate soul - furyu-na kokoroin Heian period.
This interpretation of nasake can be confirmed by many examples from the literature. Here is one of them- the episode from the "Tales of Ise", where poet Ariwara-no Yukihira, waiting for guests, arranged flowers: "Being a man of nasake, he had in a large jar a most unusual wistaria. The trailing spray of flower was upwards three shyaku and six sun (Nasakearu hito nite, kame-no naka-ni ayashiki fuji-no hana arikeri. Hana-no shincoi san shyaku roku sun ba karinamu arikeri).
Of course, there was a particular splendor in the spray of wistaria of such length, more than one metre. It is possible to suppose, that the author, speaking about the host as "a man of nasake" regarded him as the one, possessing such delicate feeling and good taste as to allow him to see in the long, trailing spray of flower a particular feminine elegance, which distinguishes wistaria from other flowers. This filled him with deep feelings and did not allow to cut the spray. It can be said, that nasake is feeling, that sustains aware.
World viewing, when the sympathetic attitude to everything around is regarded as one of the main values (this is a reason to regard mono-no aware not only as aesthetic, but also as ethics category) gives birth to the aspiration to see the invisible, to hear the inaudible and to understand just by feelings and emotions the essence of a thing or a phenomenon, endowed by the Nature. This is why we can find extremely strong attention to the natural pattern on the wood, to the shape of stone or color of clay, etc., which we can see in Japan.
So we can suppose, that the Japanese, getting down to make something, first of all reacted to the natural material, gave an emotional response to its natural essence, and tried to expose it. The process of manufacturing, whatever it would be, was not mechanical, but always artistic and creative, although it the last was not intended. Manufacturing was always a creative action because it was aimedat exposure of the essence, endowed by the Nature, and the thing itself was the only one of its kind, unrepeatable as the Nature, and was perceived not only in the utilitarian way, but also as some image, full of its own significance.
The manufactured thing was regarded as something, endowed with beauty, inherited from Nature and exposed by the man, who had made it, and whose emotional response the thing was bearing in itself. This is the reason of common to many Japanese interest towards the thing's biography even nowadays: who made it, who and how long had used it and etc.
The Japanese perception of the he things is a something connecting everybody, who get it touch with them, but the organizing source of this universal interrelation is the Nature, the Nature, which is regarded as Eternal and endless embodiment of beauty and harmony.
Being a connecting link between Nature and Human, the things, were (and are) treated with great care and respect, at the same time normally usedin the everyday life, correlating with season's rotation.
In conclusion it is possible to say, that as well as mono-no aware can be regarded not only as aesthetic, but also ethics category, having "nasake" as a necessary component of knowing mono-no aware, the thing, manufactured by a man, is always a possession of not only physical, but also of the spiritual world. The thing was one more means to harmonize connection between the Human, the Nature and all the World around.
Speaking so, things can be compared with verses. The materials for poets are strong and deep feelings. But from the point of view of shintoism, feelings are also phenomena of the Nature, so people, expressing feelings in the verses, expose to each other one of the grades of the Nature and share mono-no aware. So they do not differ from those, who, manufacturing things, open another grade of the Nature in the material, they are in touch with.
In other words, animistic elements of shinto gave birth to world look, which presupposes sympathy and respect to everything, what surrounds a man or with what he gets in deal during his life, including concepts, actions, phenomena, human feelings etc.
This world viewing helped to find and expose natural unrepeatable essence of the things, which was a gleam of the perfect and harmonious Nature and thus, regarded as being beautiful also. So exposure of this beauty was the main and it made the process of manufacturing things as creative as composing verses. That is why we can say, that the art had a special role in everyday life of the Japanese and confirming the thesis, me can recall, that the verses were one of the means of communication for quite a long time, and handmade things of the traditional crafts, the Japanese used in everyday life, very often are fine examples or decorative and applied art.
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