Japanese Gardens

In the western world, gardens are spaces to enjoy nature. Often, they have trees and flowers that are specially cared for, but generally they are outdoor spaces. In Japan, gardens are treated a little differently than they are in other countries. They are works of art that are meant to inspire meditation and reflection. In the Japanese religions Shinto and Buddhism, nature plays a large and important role. This importance is shown in the Japanese garden culture. Certain Buddhist garden designs are linked to religious and philosophical ideas. These links mean that people walking through gardens can see the designs and then think about specific Buddhist beliefs. The art of gardens started in Japan in the 5th century AD. Japanese emperors kept records of the gardens that they had built in their palaces. Japanese gardens are often simple, but very specifically planned. There are three main types of Japanese gardens. The first is Karesansui or Zen gardens. These are gardens made of sand or gravel, rocks and small plants. The gravel represents rivers, or the sea, and these gardens are meant to bring a peaceful mindset. Tsukiyama are hill gardens. These gardens have man-made hills, ponds, fishes, bridges and plants. Like the Zen gardens, they are meant to bring a peaceful mindset, but people enjoy them by walking through the set garden path. The third type is the tea garden, or Chaniwa. These gardens include an outer garden, an inner garden and a tea ceremony house. The inner garden always has a stone water basin for guests to wash their hands. Over the centuries, the styles of gardens changed to reflect the art movements of the time. Some gardens represented Japanese landscapes as miniatures, some were designed to look like silk paintings, and some were designed to look like large expanses of space. Even though there were so many different gardening styles, the basic goals for all of the gardens were the same. They are works of art that are meant to be enjoyed through meditation and contemplation. People used the gardens for enjoyment, but also for thinking about philosophy and religion.


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