I'm looking for words that capture the idea of 'passing by', 'transience' or 'releasing' in Chinese. Perhaps even 'empty space' or something similar?

Wabi Sabi is obviously a Japanese phrase and uses the characters 侘寂, i'm not sure if that directly carries meaning between the two languages.

I have been reading lots of Stonehouse translated by Red Pine and have always been a fan of wabi sabi ideals if that helps get an idea of what i'm interested in!

I would like them to be explained as well! Different contexts they would be used in and how they're applied in everyday language. Perhaps some nuances between translating between how we might think of it in English vs. Chinese.

  • What is wabi sabi? I have heard of wasabi 青芥辣! Why don't you give examples of sentences containing the words you want put into Chinese? Or, better still, the whole context.
    – Pedroski
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 9:03
  • I think you can find the answer in Buddhism.
    – PdotWang
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 14:31
  • Maybe something like 涅槃寂静,四大皆空?
    – PdotWang
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 14:42
  • 侘寂(日語:侘び寂び Wabi-sabi)是一種, 植根於禪宗的, 以接受短暫和不完美為核心的傳統日本美學。Are you looking for words related to "瞬間美(momentary beauty)", "殘缺美(imperfect beauty".... ?
    – r13
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 15:19

3 Answers 3


wabi sabi is a japanese philosophy and it does not exist in chinese on a cultural level, and so this is not even a language issue. Just like the philosophical concept of 八卦 does not exist in english and cannot just be translated.

So no, you cannot say wabi sabi directly in chinese. You would say the japanese term and explain it in detail, just like you would in english. It doesn't convey wabi sabi, but you can convey transience with terms like 短暫 and imperfection with terms like 缺.

While chinese does not have that exact philosophy, that doesn't mean that chinese culture never appreciates similar things. For example many chinese traditional arts take joy in capturing a "slice of life" moment: a twisted tree struggling to grow on a cliffside, being kept awake by a cat having zoomies at night. A duckweed floating with no control through the water, or a plum blossom vigorously blooming in the snow. None of these things are the same as wabi sabi, but if you look into chinese culture you may find actual chinese philosophy and aesthetics you also like (^ν^)


Your description reminds me of the word 昙花一现。 This flower blooms for a short time. It is a metaphor for beautiful things or scenes that appear for a while and then disappear soon.

same as "a flash in the pan" in English



from Hinayana:三法印(诸行无常、诸法无我、涅槃寂静),especially 无常。

another explanation of 三法印:无常、苦、空。



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