Zen Buddhism began to show up in Japan during the eighth century. It went through various periods of popularity and disregard, but constituted one of the most important influences on Japanese culture. All Buddhist temples include gardens. The first temple gardens evolved from well-groomed landscaping around Shinto shrines. Later, the gates and grounds surrounding Buddhist temples began to use gardens to beautify the temple, similar to the Heian mansion gardens. Jodo Buddhism (Pure Land) used temple gardens as a way to symbolize the "pure land" created by Amida Buddha to aid suffering souls in pursuit of enlightenment. These Zen gardens were meant to encompass the nature of the universe. The garden is the Buddha's realm. Gardens are tools, vehicles for meditation and reflection. Therefore they tend to be far more metaphorical than other gardens. You can stroll through many Zen gardens, but more often, you are encouraged to simply look at it.
During the 10th to 12th centuries known as the Heian era, Japan was breaking away from the styles of the Chinese T'ang Dynasty. New ideas were developing as the Imperial court converted what it had learned. In the area of garden design, however, Chinese thought was still a powerful force. Most of the aesthetic principles we see as Japanese had not yet developed. The dominant architectural style, called Shinden, was essentially a modification of Chinese design. Buildings were arranged somewhat symmetrically and according to the laws of Chinese geomancy called Feng shui. Within the mansions, a central building, the shinden (sleeping hall) would be linked to other outlying buildings by covered causeways. Beyond the tile roofs and verandas was the gar...
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Many of these gardens fell into decline with the coming of the Meiji restoration at the end of the 19th century. And although the leaders of this new age were bent on absorbing western culture, they also turned to traditional aspects of culture in Japan for inspiration. It is this intellectual climate that allows Japanese gardens to develop along a constantly evolving path with a strong sense of naturalism, which is essential to its over all design.
· The Time Life Encyclopedia of gardening: Japanese Gardens, Wendy B. Murphy, Time Life Books. 1979
· The Art of Zen Gardens: A Guide to their Creation and Enjoyment, A. K. Davidson, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc. 1983
· The Art of Zen, Stephen Addiss, Harry N. Abrams, Inc.1989
· Elements of Japanese Gardens, Isao Yoshikawa,Graphic-sha Publishing Co.1990
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