GOOD TASTE AT HOME
An aristocratic Zen perspective from medieval Japan. “Though home is of course merely a transient habitation, a place that is set up in beautiful taste to suit its owner is a wonderful thing. Even the moonlight is so much the more moving when it shines into a house where a refined person dwells in tranquil elegance. There is nothing fashionable or showy about the place, it is true, yet the grove of trees is redolent of age, the plants in the carefully untended garden carry a hint of delicate feelings, while the veranda and open-weave fence are tastefully done, and inside the house the casually disposed things have a tranquil, old-fashioned air. It is all most refined”.
Yoshida Kenko A cup of sake beneath the cherry trees Kindle edition of a Penguin Classic. This is a selection taken from Essays in idleness and probably written around 1329-31 CE. Translated into English by Meredith McKinney.
The son of an administration official, Kenko was born Urabe Kaneyoshi and served as guards officer in the Imperial palace. He became a Buddhist monk in later life, living in a hermitage within a Zen monastery. He has been seen as the most important Japanese literary figure of his day, retaining something of a secular lens on the world despite his monastic standing. He also wrote: “it is a most wonderful comfort to sit alone beneath a lamp, book spread before you, and commune with someone from the past whom you have never met.” I like him for writing that sentence, and I like being able to read it.