Jack Cheng  /  Updates

Oct 27, 2011

Wabi-sabi is one of those words that doesn’t have a direct english translation. It roughly represents an aesthetic of imperfection, impermanence and incompleteness. Even native Japanese speakers have a difficult time articulating its full meaning though, and in Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, Leonard Koren compares it to modernism, another slippery term. Where modernism is future-oriented, looks for universal solutions, and romanticizes technology, wabi-sabi is present-oriented, looks for personal, idiosyncratic solutions, and romanticizes nature.

My brother Charlie has this word tattooed on his arm, and I thought it’d make for a fun twist on a temporary tattoo—one that degrades gracefully, becoming imbued with meaning as it starts to crack and peel, until it finally vanishes for good.

For five bucks, can get a set of two wabi-sabi temporary tattoos, designed by yours truly, from my friend Tina’s site Tattly. If you wear it, be sure to send or tweet me a picture.

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These Days

My debut novel, about the human side of technology. Available now. Details.

About Me

Jack Cheng is a Shanghai-born, Michigan-bred, Brooklyn-based writer. Full Bio

Stories & Essays

Looking for a more substantial read? Try this: The Slow Web