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40th Anniversary Special Exhibition
The wabi of Raku and the yūgen of Noh: the aesthetics of form

Saturday 17 March – Sunday 24 June 2018

The Muromachi period running from 1336 to 1573 is the particular epoch in the Japanese history noteworthy for its distinctive culture and a unique sense of beauty.
The governance ruled by the warrior class in Kamakura, south west of Tokyo, during the preceding Kamakura period was re-installed back in Kyoto by Muromachi Shogunate, whereupon the political and social unification between the warrior class and the noble class, together with a strong influence from spiritualism of Zen Buddhism, gave birth to a new art and culture prevailing among the new class in power in favour of unique Japanese aesthetics such as yūgen (TN: a subtle and mysterious beauty that evokes power and depth to be perceived beyond words) or wabi (TN: an austere and quiet beauty found in the transient, imperfect and incomplete).
Above all it was the Noh theatre and Chanoyu, the way of tea, that have a similar underlying aesthetic philosophy and the two are mutually inter-influential, despite each belonging to a totally different genre of art.
In Chanoyu culture, there are numerous associations with the recitation of Noh by means of naming of a tea bowl or motifs applied on it. There used to be a custom where the host and the guest enjoyed reciting Noh over the tea ceremony, though it is scarcely happening nowadays. The art of Noh gave a profound influence on Raku tea bowl as well. A sense of beauty inclined towards reducing decorative elements to almost nil in the Raku tradition is also present in the art of Noh theatre where the physical expression remains minimal with a use of the Noh mask. A quiet presence of a Chōjirō’s teabowl placed in the small and humble ambience of a tea room evokes a similar sensibility as a Noh player standing with a stylised composure on an austere Noh stage. The naming of a Raku teabowl often finds the source from Noh plays, while the shape of a flower vase typically found in the Raku tradition is associated with the hour-glass form of a hand drum, tsuzumi, an instrument used in the Noh recitation.
This exhibition showcases the similarity between a sense of beauty of wabi and yūgen lying behind the art of Noh and Raku, discovering the aesthetic threads running through both by co-featuring Noh masks and tea bowls.

Works on Display
Closed: Mondays (except National Holidays)
Admission: Adults ¥1000
University Students ¥800
High School Students ¥400
Under Juniour High School free admission
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