Yūgen – 幽玄

Often times when walking through Manhattan, you feel small, regardless of whether you’re 6’7″ or 4’8″, the mere size and dimensions of the skyscrapers completely overwhelm you as you realize that you are insignificant compared to these man-made giants as well as insignificant in the grand scheme of society and life and other greater functions. Large beautiful buildings such as the Empire State, the Freedom Tower, even the Colosseum in Rome or the Burj Khalifa in Dubai can instill this feeling of wonder and awe. Some works that I’ve seen by Mark Rothko also do this, as some of his works consist of large canvases containing a few solid colors and nothing more. The word that comes to mind does not exist in English, but the Japanese do have a term for it: 幽玄 (Yūgen), meaning “an awareness of the universe that triggers emotional responses too deep and mysterious for words”.

One thought on “Yūgen – 幽玄”

  1. This is why it’s so great to learn other languages–so many different ways to understand the universe. Mark Rothko definitely does that for me, too.

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