The Garden Guide

Book: Landscape Gardening in Japan, 1912
Chapter: Chapter 10. Ornamental Water

Water in Japanese gardens

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IN one or other of its many forms of lake, river, stream, torrent, or cascade, Water is an almost indispensable feature of Japanese gardens. Even in localies where no natural supply can be obtained, the idea of Water Scenery is expressed in the design by the arrangement of surrounding hills, stones, and plants. A sunken stretch of bare beaten earth or well-raked sand, with isolated boulders scattered here and there, will often indicate a lake or sea with its islands or jutting rocks. In other cases, a meandering bed, spread with pebbles and crossed by a small bridge or stepping stones, will serve to convey the impression of a stream, which is further sustained by distributing water plants, rushes, and rounded river boulders on its banks. There are certain kinds of level gardens�including the ordinary Tea Garden�into which Water Scenery is rarely introduced, but in such cases an antique well or water-basin, or the suggestion of a natural spring will be added to make up the deficiency. It is essential that a garden should, above all things, look cool and refreshing in the summer-time, and such a character is best maintained by the presence�or at least the idea�of Water. Shallow and clear running Water is held to have a much cooler and refreshing effect than deep, stagnant, and weed-covered expanses. Water plays a most important part in the Sansui, or "Hill Gardens," which form the principal models for all Japanese landscape gardens. Imaginative writers compare the hills of such grounds to the Emperor, the rocks to his Officials, and the surrounding water to his Courtiers. As the Emperor must be advised and protected by strong Officials to guard him from the intrigues of insinuating Courtiers, so, they say, must the artificial hills of gardens be strengthened by firm stones against the encroachment of the water. Fig. 28 illustrates a famous Sansui garden from an ancient temple at Kioto, in which an artistic balance between rocks, hills, and water is cleverly maintained, and a profound and serene effect created.