Gardens are expressions of our relationship to the natural world. Most garden design throughout the world has been devoted to the creation of the idyllic – paradise on earth or an utopian vision of man’s relationship with nature. In an imperfect world, these gardens represent an idealised environment, the world as it should be, all the right balances and dynamics firmly in place, nourishing the mind.
All over the world people are attracted to Japanese gardens,
usually because they provide a tranquil environment designated to give the impression of a natural landscape at its most serene. A garden in the Japanese style possesses a unique aura of calm, and is intent to offer peace and quiet contemplation with restraint, order, harmony and decorum as the guiding design principles. It is an expression of love for living things, acceptance of the transience of Nature reflected in the changing seasons, and an inspired vision of the eternal.
Our clear distinction between animate and inanimate was not shared by the ancient Japanese, whose understanding was that all natural phenomena were infused by the psychophysical energy known as ki. Balancing the polarized energy of in and yo (yin and yang in Chinese) within the body, controlling the flows of ki in order to promote harmony between the body and the circulation of cosmic energies beyond it, was and is an idea accepted in both principal and practice by the Japanese.
Throughout history, under the influence of various religions and philosophies, garden designers have strived to create environments that surpass nature itself by enhancing nature’s pleasant qualities while eliminating the distasteful ones. The first gardens built in Japan – from the early-sixth or seven century through the Heian period (794-1185) – were specifically created as symbols of everlasting paradise (tokoyo-shiso). The design of these gardens was primarily derived from tales of the paradisiacal Pure Land of Amida Buddha – Amida Buddha presides over the Pure Land, a heaven where the spirits of enlightened individuals enter at death to be removed from the endless cycle of death and rebirth –, but it also included other religious images: for instance, Shumisen, the central mountain of the Buddhist cosmology; Horai, the islands of the Immortals; and most likely, various images from Japan's animistic religions as well. This image of Pure Land influenced many Heian-period garden designers, some of whom built gardens specifically as earthly replications of the Pure Land by creating an island in the “sea”, in fact a pond, sometimes planted with lotus. The central island (nakajima) was often connected to shore by one or more bridges which implied the potential of attaining the Pure Land – symbolically linking “this world” with “heaven” infer the possibility of rebirth in paradise.
About the author
Jakab Zoltán Csaba; Japanese garden designer. His garden is open to the visitors: Zen Fairy Garden