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Shibusa Aesthetics: Spontaneity in Japanese Gardens with David Young

Join us on March 29, from 2pm-4pm as David Young talks about spontaneity in Japanese gardens.

The goal of a traditional Japanese garden is to re-create nature on a small scale and in an artistic way that improves upon nature. Keeping in mind that the word “art” comes from the same word as “artificial,” how can something be natural and artificial at the same time? This interesting challenge was met in Japan with the concept of shibusa, which can be translated as “restrained spontaneity” or “spontaneity of effect.” After briefly summarizing the history of Japanese gardens, I will explore how the concept of shibusa has been used to create gardens that are not really spontaneous and natural but appear to be so. This clever way of combining “natural” and “artificial” was a major contribution to aesthetic theory.

David Young was born in the U. S. and spent his childhood in West Africa. He has a B.A. in sociology and philosophy from the University of Indianapolis, a B.D. in religion and anthropology from Yale, an M.A. in Asian Studies from the University of Hawaii, and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Stanford. In 1970, David and his wife Michiko moved to Edmonton where David taught at the University of Alberta. They became Canadian citizens in 1979. After retiring, the Youngs moved to Japan so David could teach anthropology there. David and Michiko have conducted research on Japanese aesthetics for many years and have published three books on that topic. The Youngs now reside in Nanaimo, B.C.

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