|The Silver Temple, Kyoto|
The spectacular Chinese landscape was seen as something to be used - the impact of man being considered adornment rather than subjugation - an attitude which can be said to have direct parallels with the English Landscape Garden of the 18th century.
The landscape was also associated with the legendary eight Immortals or xian, who lived amongst the peaks of the mythical Mount Kunlun (the Himalaya) in the west, and on the Isles of the Blessed in the eastern sea, with their misty valleys, blue rivers, delightful flora and pleasure pavilions.
|The Humble Administrator's Garden, Suzhou|
All had a strong impact on Chinese garden styles. By the 3rd century a cultural matrix of mythology and nature philosophy (together with a hefty dose of imperial authority) melded with the arts of gardening, painting, poetry and calligraphy in an approach that was going to last for 1,500 years.
|The Lingering Garden, Suzhou|
In Japan, the dominant religion before the arrival of Taoist and Buddhist ideas from China in the 5th and 6th centuries was Shinto which teaches that everything contains a kami or spirit power. Indeed, The Japanese word for garden, niwa, was first used to denote a sanctified space in nature set apart for the worship of Shinto.
Pure Land Buddhism was particularly influential on the development of gardens during the Heian period (794-1191) when architecture followed the symmetrical shinden style. Gardens, with their water and rock symbolising both the Pure Land the Islands of the Blessed were large and to be used. A rare survivor (albeit much modified) is Byōdō-in near Kyoto.
Is sum, the Japanese garden is not simply a copying of nature, ‘self created’ as the word shizen would have us believe. It has always been nature crafted by man, and at its best, is nature as art. For although the garden may look natural, the garden maker has taken select forms of nature, isolated them from their natural context and placed them to be experienced within the new, unnatural setting, an intellectually imposed enclosure which physically and visually frames nature.
|Katrsura Imperial Villa, Kyoto|