Wabi tea house

In his classic Book of Tea, Kakuzo Okakura describes the tea house as no more than a cottage or thatched hut. The original ideographs for “tea house” meant literally “Abode of Fancy,” the name Basho used for his hut: “Unreal” or “Phantom” dwelling. Okakura also calls it “Abode of Vacancy” or emptiness, reminiscent of Bodhidharma’s saying about the essence of Buddhism: “Vast emptiness.” Again, Okakura also calls the tea house “Abode of the Unsymmetrical” or what we would today call “Asymmetrical.” Here the concept approaches wabi. He writes of the tea house’s designer who goes about “purposely leaving something unfinished for the play of the imagination to complete.” Wabi is the aesthetic of dwellings reflecting “extreme simplicity and chasteness … of decoration.” The aesthetics of wabi is a plastic or sense expression of Zen philosophy, which the tea house should embody.