Japanese Miniatures: Suiseki

Although the love for miniatures is shared around the world it seems the Japanese know something about small that the rest of us have yet to understand. From bonsai, to netsuke, capsule hotels, sushi or even the notorious koonago, in Japan, more then any other place in the world, smallness is celebrated and cultivated. The Incredible Shrinking Man research wants to learn if this specific Japanese understanding of the small can contribute to our goal of inspiring and initiating a smaller mankind. Up first is suiseki, the Japanese art of stone appreciation.

Suiseki are small viewing stones that resemble mountains, islands, waterfalls or hillscapes. They are a microcosm of a wider natural world and tools for reflection and introspection. In this sense suiseki connects to the function of the temple: in confucianism and taoism mountains are seen as a bridge between heaven and earth, and a link with eternal life. There’s a curious material connection to the alchemist’s quest for the philosopher’s stone. It’s certainly not only the simularity of the suiseki to a landscape that is appreciated but the autonomous and somewhat puzzling power of the rock itself as it is able to be both big and small at the same time. As one zen master put it:’I see the whole world in a tiny stone. Some objects in this world are huge, and others are small, and they come in all shapes, but they are not that different if you look at their essence’.  In suiseki size matters only in as far as it confuses our traditional sense of size and opens up a deeper understanding of its relativity.

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