The Historical Development of the Japanese Garden

The Nara period (646 A.D.-794A.D.)

In 607 A.D, the Chinese emperor Sui Yang Ti ordered the construction of a vast Imperial Palace and garden. Kuck (1980) states that "the ground was broken over an area of 75 square miles and the labour of a million men was required" . Five lakes and four "seas" were created,the largest of which " being some 13 miles in circuit" . The emperor ordered that this be filled with mature trees and examples of all the wildlife known to the empire. That same year, the Japanese emissary Ono no Imoko visited the site and was so impressed as to describe the grounds as "a variegated beauty unequalled in the world of men", Kuck (1980). Four years later, a garden was created at the Imperial palace in the new capital at Nara for the Empress Suiko by the Korean artisan Michiko no Takumi, known as the "Ugly Artisan" for his white blotchy skin. This garden, with its islands and lakes was designed to be as much like its T' ang dynasty prototype as possible. The scenery of the earliest garden prototype is dominated by islands and ponds. As such it quite literally illustrates the the Sino-japanese word for landscape-}sansui -, or " mountain-water " . Nitschke (1993). During this period, Japanese merchants travelled to China frequently, importing many facets of Chinese culture and appreciating the rugged coastline of their own country, inspiring early garden makers to edge the lakes in the gardens of the aristocracy with rocks, pebbles and sand. This style of garden became so typical that the word shima meaning island was also used to mean garden for the next hundred years, Bibb (1991).

The Heian period (794A.D-1185A.D)

In 794 A.D, the capital was moved to Heian (now Kyoto) and what became known as Japans Classical period began. This was a period of great wealth in Japan, the arts flourished and so did the aristocracy, the name Heian translates as City of peace and Tranquility, Bibb(1991). During this period the aristocracy found themselves with little to do, the country enjoyed a period of peace and the wealthy indulged themselves in the arts and philosophy of the time. Buddhism and been introduced from China and the contemplative art of garden design became an obsession of the nobility. A distinctive form of architecture known as the shinden (sleeping quarters) arose during this time and coupled with the practice of erecting rocks, ishi wo tateru came to characterise this period. Nitschke (1993) states that "the practice of erecting rocks lies at the heart of Japanese garden architecture of the Heian period." Often, these gardens were arranged as tableaux to be viewed from the sleeping quarters and again Nitschke (1993) states that "without the contrast provided by a rectangular visual would not be possible to recognise a handful of boulders as a garden.."

In 894 A.D, the Imperial court ordered an end to the commercial relations between China and Japan. This allowed for a uniquely Japanese interpretation to be imposed on imported Chinese ideas and perhaps added to a sense of melancholic lassitude, which was permeating Japanese nobility at this time. As the aristocracy became increasingly preoccupied with philosophical matters and employed Buddhist monks as garden designers it was no surprise that Buddhist metaphors came to be widely employed at this time. As Nitschke (1993) reports, " the mythological metaphors of crane and turtle and the Buddhist triad (Heaven, earth and man) are all proof of the Heian" craze" for things chinese"

The Japanese flavour to design can be seen in what Nitschke (1993) states as the " prerequisite of Heian art\" , the concept of mono no aware or sensitivity towards beings. The expression came to acquire an " undercurrent of profound melancholy" and further refined the unique atmosphere of Japanese gardens.

Design the pond with respect to its position in the land, follow its request, when you encounter a potent ial site , consider its atmosphere , think of the mountains and water of living nature and reflect constantly on such settings. ( From the Sakuteiki}.)\

The classical age was immortalised in what is believed to be the earliest novel, \" The Tale of Genji" by the Lady Murisaki some time around 1000A.D. Callicarpa japonica" the Beauty bush", is known as Murasaki} after Murisaki shikibu the author . Murasaki means purple, refering to the purple berries. She was a noblewoman of the Fujiwara clan and vividly recounts the great interest taken be the aristocracy in garden design at that time, giving long descriptions of the gardens of her various friends. Indeed she recounts that \" prince Genji himself planned his estate" .

Towards the end of the Hei an period, a religious revolution swept Japan with the founding of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism, which stated that a single act could ensure one a place in the Western paradise, analogous to Heaven in Christian thought. The aristocracy began to construct gardens in imitation of the Amida Buddhas paradise and indeed, " to compare the beauty of a garden to Amidas paradise was a natural turn of thought in 12th century Japan" . Kuck (1980). At the end of the Heian period, the tenets of gardening had become formalised and were compiled by a court noble in a manual called " The way of gardening" The Sakuteiki .

The Sakuteiki is the earliest known garden manual and sets out the tenets and philosophies of Heian period garden construction as well as detailed plans for the construction of ponds, paths, gravel and describes the geomantic taboos against certain practices. Together with the Chinese principles of Feng shui, the Japanese have their own beliefs concerning natural objects-"the unique or extraordinary in nature is often venerated as go-shintai, the abode of a diety. Go shintai may be an unusually shaped rock, a tree weathered over the centuries , a strikingly jagged rock or a waterfall of rare shape or size. " Nitschke (1993).

The Sakuteiki sets out four principles which guide Japanese garden practices to this day and would be worth bearing in mind for any design project. These principles are-

Shotoku no sansui} - mountain water of living nature. To create in the likeness of nature. }{\i\fs24 Kohan ni shitagau} - follow the request, go with the natural lie of the land

According to Masahiro tanaka, a well Known Japanese designer, this second principle reveals the Japanese soul of the Sakuteiki . Nitschke (1993).

Suchigaete} - off balance, asymmetry.

Fuzei-a breeze of feeling, the spirit of the location. Taking the surroundings into account

The Kamakura Period (1185-1392)

The overthrow of the Emperors Taira clan by the Minamoto clan in 1185 saw the seat of power move from Heian to Kamakura and the rise of the Samuri warrior class. These feudal lords largely followed Zen Buddhism as it reflected their own austere lifestyles and was sympathetic to the warrior code they embraced. Under the influence of Zen priests, the Shogun was persuaded to resume trade with China and the Chinese Sung dynasty painting style was to have as great and influence on Japanese garden design as T, ang Dynasty art had centuries earlier. Bibb (1991). Once again, China was to have an effect on Japanese garden design, Kuck (1980) states that " Sung art was to come in a great flood to japan with rock artistry and Zen" . With the new found power of the Samurai, many gardens were constructed by what became a class of increasingly wealthy Zen Priest-gardeners. These gardeners had a great love of rock arrangements, not just for their aesthetic appeal but also for the philosophical ideas they could engender. Their philosophy of meditation led to the creation of peaceful, contemplative gardens with restful views.

The Muromachi period (1338-1573). The Kamakura government was overthrown in 1338 and the seat of government returned to what was now known as Kyoto. The hillsides of Kyoto allowed for the extensive use of water features and waterfalls were often created for the calming sounds of water on rocks.It was during this period that the rituals of the Tea ceremony became forrmalised. The powerful Samurai warlords could employ their armies to construct gardens using large rocks and the famous Silver pavilion was built in 1433. Utilising their available manpower, " 3000 of Lord Hosokawa's men moved rocks for another estate the shogun was building".Kuck (1980)

The refining of the Zen aesthetic led to the creation of the dry landscape or Kare-sansui garden and as Nitschke (1990) states," the themes of the kare-sansui garden are not the changing seasons and natural sights, but the inner secrets of nature and human existance" . Gardens became increasingly abstract, rocks, which have always been of great significance ( The warlord Oba Nobunaga sent the ' Eternal Pine Mountain' stone in exchange for the Ishiyama fortress in 1580.) were given names, indicating for Nitschke (1990) that ' the naming of rocks is simply an indication of the increasingly symbolic dimension of the gardens of the muromachi era' . The main legacy of the Muromachi era for garden design was the use of horizontally laid, as well as massive stones and this development can be attributed to the great Artist, Zen monk and garden designer Sesshu (1420-1506).

Sesshu travelled to China, where he studied Ming dynasty landscape painting with its use of simple pen strokes and used this in his garden designs. His influence was great as he was known as \ldblquote the supreme painter of the muromachi era. Kuck (1980). Zen monks constructed small Temple gardens and this was reflected in the creation of many smaller gardens reflecting a Zen simplicity, away from the extravagant gardens of the aristocracy.

The refinement of the muromachi era reached its zenith with the creation of the famous Ryoan-ji garden in a Temple in Kyoto. This group of fifteen stones in a sea of gravel has been interpreted as many things , but is perhaps bes t summed up be Nitschke (1990) when he says that Ryoan-ji' belongs to the art of the void' .

The Momoyama period(1573-1603)

The warlord Hideyoshi achieved a period of peace during which many great gardens and Imperial estates such as the Kyoto Imperial Palace were constructed. Reverence for rare stones was at its peak and Zen Buddhism flourished. Towards the end of this period, the Tea ceremony under the tutilage of Sen no Rykyu, emphasised the quality of wabi, translated as rustic simplicity, perhaps in response to the lavish exuberance of the gardens of the time. The incorporation of elements of the ceremony such as the use of wash , stone lanterns along narrow winding paths into garden design can be attributed to this fashion. Eliovsen (1970). The habit clipping bushes, particularily Azaleas into tight designs, known as O-Karikomi became a feature of this era, Nitschke (1990) states that " it was only in the momoyama era that it emerged as a primary feature of garden design". This development can be attributed to the great garden artist Kobori Enshu (1579-1647), Nitschke saying that O-karikomi " reached its climax and its end with the life - and death - of this great garden artist" . Ensshu is also accredited with the creation of the Strolling garden, where one is encouraged to walk along proscribed routes, this being seen as an enlarged form of the Tea ceremony garden. Bibb (1991).

The Edo period} (1603-1867)

The iron hand of the Tokugawa government once again closed Japan to outside influences and the seat of government became the newly created town of Edo, now Tokyo. Large lakes could easily be constructed in the marshy,flat ground, however, waterfalls and running streams tended not to be used. Eliovsen (1970). The role of the Samurai was reduced to one of civil servant and the merchant classes began to grow, creating small gardens of their own. In this atmosphere, gardening ceased to be the province of monks and warrior Artists, becoming instead a trade for craftsmen who were unconcerned with the ritual and symbolism of gardening prefering to imitate the existing gardens. Some intellectuals regarded the Tokugawa' s as usurpers and believed that the Emperor should return to power. This belief was expressed by the creation of no-style gardens, sometimes referred to as the " literary mans" style. As many gardens were small, the practice of ' wabi''in imitation of the intimate Tea ceremony gardens was often employed as was the planning of gardens to appear larger than they actually were.

The Meiji period (1868-1912)

This period saw the restoration of the Emperor at the insistence of the American Navy who demanded an end to Japanese isolation in order to open trade routes between the two countries. Western ideas such as the establishment of public parks, flowe r beds and lawns started to appear, though these ideas tended to be merged into the rich tradition of garden design.