The Garden Guide

Book: Landscape Gardening in Japan, 1912
Chapter: Chapter1. History

Ancient Japanese gardens

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Japanese authors, in classifying the different styles of gardening practised in their country, refer to an ancient method of arrangement followed, prior to the influence which Chinese culture exerted in the sixth century. And, indeed, it seems only reasonable to suppose that, simultaneously with the construction of palaces and buildings of importance, however primitive in style, some kind of distribution and display of vegetation would be adopted to impart order and attractiveness to the surrounding grounds. The early style referred to is called the Shinden-Shiki, or Imperial Audience Hall Style, being the arrangement adopted for the area immediately in front of the detached palace intended for Imperial receptions. The large, oblong hall, with extensive corridors forming wings, occupied the South side of a quadrangle, on the East and West sides of which were secondary buildings for the Court attendants. The North side was bounded by the large entrance gate and principal enclosing wall. In the middle of the quadrangle is said to have existed a large lake of irregular shape containing a central islet reached from the banks by a picturesque bridge. Reference is also made to a plum tree and orange tree planted one on either side of the area immediately in front of the audience hall. Though this is all that is known of the earliest style of garden arrangement, it is sufficient to show that some fancy for natural variety, and for a suggestion of real landscape, existed even in the most primitive and formal designs.