The Garden Guide


Sharawadgi is a word of uncertain origin, used in connection with the supposed Chinese influence on irregularity in early-eighteenth century gardens. Sir William Temple wrote that "The Chineses scorn this way of planting, and say, a boy, that can tell an hundred, may plant walks of trees in straight lines, and over-against one another, and to what length and extent he pleases. But their greatest reach of imagination is employed in contriving figures, where the beauty shall be great, and strike the eye, but without any order or disposition of parts that shall be commonly or easily observed: and, though we have hardly any notion of this sort of beauty, yet they have a particular word to express it, and, where they find it hit their eye at first sight, they say the sharawadgi is fine or is admirable, or any such expression of esteem." Ciaran Murray (Journal of the Garden History Society Vol 26 No.2 Winter 1998) argues that Sharawadgi derives from 'the Japanese sorowaji: which, in sound and sense - 'not being regular' - would correspond to Temple's word'. Murray makes a good case for (1) Temple having learned about Japanese gardens from staff of the Dutch East India Company he had met in Holland (2) having a broad concept of 'Cathay' which embraced the culture of China and Japan