Different cultures all around the world have formed the landscape around them to suit a vision or ideal. We clad our skyscrapers in glass and steel burnished so they gleam to demonstrate power, prosperity, perhaps even the defiance of the very laws of gravity. Monuments are erected to celebrate ideas, to commemorate moments in history that may otherwise be lost. We lay our design and our artifice upon the earth and shape our cities, our parks and our gardens to pleasing forms.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
There are landscape design principles that have been documented and written down for hundreds, and in the case of chinese history, perhaps thousands of years. Eastern gardens are perhaps nearly opposite to western gardens in that they encourage a natural wildness that is shaped by human art, whereas western gardens tend to be more symmetrical, with an order that is easily identified, often containing plants sorted into groups and colours.
There are three great gardens in Japan that are said to embody the six central principles of sublime landscape artistry. The gardens are called Kenroku–en, Kairaku-en and Koraku-en. The name Kenroku-en translates into English as “Garden that combines six characteristics.” These six characteristics of gardening have been handed down since the Tang Dynasties Golden Age of Gardening, about 1500 odd years ago. The Characteristics are arranged in to complementary pairs, to denote the symbiosis and relationship that each of these principles has in relation to the other. Gardens may contain any of the characteristics, but only a great garden possesses all six.
Spaciousness and seclusion.
Eastern gardens often have winding paths that wend their way between secluded grottos and unfurl into breathtaking vistas. Each step is an adventure and contains the delight of discovery. The juxtaposition between the two opposing design principles gives a sense of wonder in the garden.
Artifice and Antiquity
A moss covered lantern lends the sense of ancient times, of the passing of ages and as many eastern gardens attempt to emulate, a sense of the immortal. Most Eastern gardens will have an island central to them, often with mossed stones set in t he centre, or for the truly extravagant large pieces of Jade or grren stone This island represents the dwelling of the immortals where fruits will bestow eternal life, one does not sicken nor die and there is no pain. To venerate the mytic, ancient and noble is to bring those qualities into a garden and to those who wander its paths.
Watercourses and Panoramas.
The trickle of water through a landscape gives movement, and a sense of natural flow. All three of the great gardens of Japan have streams running through them that accentuate the natural beauty of the landscape and highlight the panoramic views that are as carefully arranged as paintings. Much time is spent planning the composition of a panorama so that it contains the natural beauty desired by the designers. Panoramas should highlight all the other qualities of the garden.
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