beauty in patterns of shadows

beautyofshadows

“My mother was remarkably slight, under five feet I should say, and I do not think that she was unusual for her time. I can put the matter strongly: women in those days had almost no flesh. I remember my mother’s face and hands, I can clearly remember her feet, but I can remember nothing about her body. She reminds me of the statue of Kannon in the Chuguji, whose body must be typical of most Japanese women of the past. The chest as flat as a board, breasts paper-thin, back, hips, and buttocks forming an undeviating straight line, the whole body so lean and gaunt as to seem out of proportion with the face, hands, and feet, so lacking in substance as to give the impression not of flesh but of a stick–must not the traditional Japanese woman have had just a physique? A few are still about–the aged lady in an old-fashioned household, some few geisha. They remind me of stick dolls, for in fact they are nothing more than poles upon which to hang clothes. As with the dolls their substance is made up of layer of clothing, bereft of which only an ungainly pole remains. But in the past this was sufficient. For a woman who lived in the dark it was enough if she had a faint, while face–a full body was unnecessary. …we…create a kind of beauty of the shadows we made in out-of-the-way places…we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.”

~Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, (In Praise of Shadows, pp.29-30)

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