The Garden Guide

Book: Landscape Gardening in Japan, 1912
Chapter: Chapter 3. Garden Lanterns

Stone lanterns in Japanese gardens

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STANDARD Lanterns form an important feature of all Japanese gardens. It is recorded that the first stone lantern constructed in Japan was erected in the beginning of the seventh century by Prince Iruhiko, son of the Emperor Suiko, at a solitary lake-side spot in the province of Kawachi, as a protection against robbers by whom the locality was infested. It was afterwards removed to the grounds of the temple of Tachibana in Yamato, founded by Shotoku-Taishi. Whether or not this popular story be true, it seems, anyhow, certain that the stone Standard Lantern is of purely Japanese origin. In China, from which country many ideas in gardening were introduced, this particular kind of garden ornament is not to be found. From early times it has been customary in Japan to present Lanterns of stone or bronze to Buddhist temples for the purpose of adorning the courts and paved approaches. The grounds of all the important shrines and mausolea possess large numbers�sometimes amounting to several thousands�which, in many cases, have been brought from great distances as votive offerings from princes and nobles. They vary from six feet to eighteen feet in height, and are arranged in rows and avenues on either side of the paved or gravelled courts. Some authorities state that the use of stone Lanterns as garden ornaments dates from the introduction of the Tea Ceremonies.