“Visualize the famous landscape of our country and come to understand their most interesting points.Recreate the essence of these scenes in the garden, but do so interpretatively, not strictly” – Sakutei-ki, Records of Garden making, 11th century
Gardens had existed since Nara Period (710-794). During the Heian Period (794- 1185), it evolved with the pond, being the centre of the design. This element had continued till today. The Japanese religions, Shinto and Buddhism, had influenced the way gardens and architecture is designed and built. They believed that, in nature, all natural elements have spirits. As such, gardens are created to imitate nature or sometimes referred as ‘borrowed sceneries’, “shakkei”. Plants, both evergreens and deciduous are selected and carefully planted to reflect impermanence – seasonal changes – life itself. This is evident particularly in the use of maples, “momiji” and cheery, “sakura” trees. Additional elements are added to enhance the garden include bodies of water, either moving or stagnant; stone water basins, “tsukubai”; stone lanterns, “dai- dōrō” and stepping stones, “ise”. In architecture, historical period elements are used to recreate, especially, in the design. Art and nature are inseparable, likewise, the indoor and outdoor flow. It seems that art, nature and religion have become one. Examples of these are the Zen Gardens. Religious messages and teachings are created, not on a canvas or sculptures, but in a living form – the garden. In dry “karesansui” gardens – sand, stones, rocks and plants are mindfully arranged to reflect these messages. Fine examples include Zuhoi In and Daisen Temples. Symbols like hills, mountains, streams, and universe are immaculately and carefully incorporated into the design. Gardens had taken a spiritual discipline. Having done the hard work, today, these gardens are continuously and meticulously maintained to keep form and true to its historical origins that had survived for centuries. These places remain an abode for tranquility and solitude. A silent retreat! I am personally intrigued, touched by a sense of calm and the images etched in my mind by the mere sight of these treasures.