Re: Sharawadji Effect

Subject: Re: Sharawadji Effect
From: Jean-Marc Pelletier (
Date: Wed Apr 27 2005 - 08:36:50 EDT

Rick wrote:

>"the beauty of studied irregularity" either Chinese or Japanese and
>maybe related to sorowaji-(j) "the two sides of a design that do not
Actually the term was coined by a British diplomat, Sir William Temple
in 1685 in his essay "Upon the Gardens of Epicurus: or Of Gardening". He
writes it "sharawadgi". You can read the whole text here:

It's not clear where the word comes from however, though the etymology
cited by Rick is the most commonly seen. It's classic, not modern
Japanese, though. It's a negative form of the verb "sorou", which means
"to be in order". Theres a huge number of verb inflections in classical
Japanese and many have no good equivalent in the modern language, much
less in English. The -ji ending can mean "shouldn't be that way", but it
can also mean more or less "do not want to" or even "probably won't",
depending on context or era.

Anyway, here's the paragraph the word appears in:

"What I have said, of the best forms of gardens, is meant only of such
as are in some sort regular; for there may be other forms wholly
irregular that may, for aught I know, have more beauty than any of the
others; but they must owe it to some extraordinary dispositions of
nature in the seat, or some great race of fancy or judgment in the
contrivance, which may reduce many disagreeing parts into some figure,
which shall yet, upon the whole, be very agreeable. Something of this I
have seen in some places, but heard more of it from others who have
lived much among the Chineses; a people, whose way of thinking seems to
lie as wide of ours in Europe, as their country does. Among us, the
beauty of building and planting is placed chiefly in some certain
proportions, symmetries, or uniformities; our walks and our trees ranged
so as to answer one another, and at exact distances. The Chineses scorn
this way of planting, and say, a boy, that can tell an hundred, may
plant walks of trees in straight lines, and over-against one another,
and to what length and extent he pleases. But their greatest reach of
imagination is employed in contriving figures, where the beauty shall be
great, and strike the eye, but without any order or disposition of parts
that shall be commonly or easily observed: and, though we have hardly
any notion of this sort of beauty, yet they have a particular word to
express it, and, where they find it hit their eye at first sight, they
say the /sharawadgi/ is fine or is admirable, or any such expression of
esteem. And whoever observes the work upon the best India gowns, or the
painting upon their best screens or purcellans, will find their beauty
is all of this kind (that is) without order. But I should hardly advise
any of these attempts in the figure of gardens among us; they are
adventures of too hard achievement for any common hands; and, though
there may be more honour if they succeed well, yet there is more
dishonour if they fail, and it is twenty to one they will; whereas, in
regular figures, it is hard to make any great and remarkable faults."


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