The History of Suiseki
Japanese History
Chinese History
Korean History
Common Classifications   
Japanese Classifications
Chinese Classifications
Korean Classifications
Japanese Terminology
Chinese Terminology
Korean Terminology
Collecting Suiseki
Where To Collect
Tools & Gear
Evaluating Suiseki
Ten Views of a Rock
The Science of Suiseki
Preparing Your Suiseki
Using Acid
Drying Stones
Stone Cutting
Developing A Patina
Caring for Suiseki
Displaying Your Suiseki
The Daiza
The Suiban
The Tokonoma
Other Displays
Overall Design

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For centuries, hauntingly beautiful stones have captivated the imagination of collectors with their power to suggest a scene or object. The suggestive possibilities of suiseki are almost limitless, very much like looking at a cloud and seeing running stallions or angels, images unlimited by imagination. In the suiseki world, often heard is the term "wabi-sabi," referring to the deep spiritual understanding of /connection with a suiseki stone.

Prized suiseki are not replicas of natural objects they represent -- instead, they merely suggest the object and capture the object's essence with simple gestures; they awaken the imagination, inviting the viewer to complete the picture. They are simplicity, in accordance with Zen teachings. They are "less is more" captured in stone.

Aesthetic Qualities

  • Suggestiveness
  • Subdued Color
  • Balance
  • Wabi (inward, spiritual)
  • Sabi (aesthetics, art)
  • Shibui (restrained elegance)
  • Yugen (sudden perception of the elusive)

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    Click to Enlarge

    Subdued Color: subtle colors arising from deep within the stone, as if illuminated by a hidden light source. The most prized suiseki are those with deep colors such as blacks, browns, greens, blues, reds.

    Balance: between contrasting features: tallness/shortness, largeness/smallness, vertical/horizontal, convexity/concavity, hardness/softness, roughness/smoothness, movement/stillness.

    Wabi: a subjective feeling evoked by an object; unassuming, solitary, calm, quiet, still, impoverished or unpretentious; melancholic, lonely, desolate (classic image: abandoned fisherman's shack on a lonely beach buffeted by a strong wind on a gray wintry day)

    Sabi: ancient, mature, seasoned, serene, mellowed, antique; lonely, solitary or melancholic (classic image: patina and signs of age/wear on a treasured antique)

    Shibui: restrained, quiet, composed, understated, reserved, sedate; refined, elegant (classic images: a single delicate flower breaching cracks in a sidewalk; the quiet understated elegance of a formal tea ceremony)

    Yugen: profound, uncertain, subtle; dark and mysterious (classic image: moon shining behind a veil of clouds, or the morning mist veiling a mountainside)

    So the aesthetics of suiseki are in the small details: variations in texture and shadings of color, and nearly invisible nuances of shape. These differences distinguish an ordinary stone from a fine suiseki, where the beauty often waits for discovery, just below the surface.

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