Unformatted text preview: used rocks of varying shapes and textures
to represent both natural formations and man-made structures, such as
mountains, cliffs, waterfalls, and bridges. In addition, they employed sand
and white pebbles as “water” and thus, in some of their works, eliminated
the pond, which for so many centuries had been the central feature of
the Japanese garden.
It was during and after the Higashiyama epoch that the finest of
the medieval dry rock gardens, known as kare-sansui or “withered landscapes,” were built, all on the grounds of Zen temples. Some of these
gardens, such as the kare-sansui at the Daisen’in abbacy of Daitokuji
Temple in Kyoto, are reproductions in miniature of scenes from nature.
In the Daisen’in garden, for example, we see in the background several
large rocks representing towering mountains; and in the middle distance
there is a flat, bridgelike rock and, flowing beneath it, a “river” of white
sand (fig. 40). This and other kare-sansui are very much like three-dimen- 138 The Canons of Medieval Taste Fig. 40 Garden at the Daisen’in of the Daitokuji Temple (photograph by Joseph
Shulman) sional monochrome ink paintings and are based on the same aesthetics
as sumi-e. Not surprisingly, some of the leading monochrome artists of the
age, such as Sesshû and Sòami, were also noted designers of gardens.
Perhaps the most famous Japanese rock garden is the kare-sansui at
the Ryòanji Temple in Kyoto (fig. 41). Consisting of a flat, rectangular
surface of raked white sand with fifteen rocks scattered about singly and
in clusters, the Ryòanji garden is ostensibly a representation of the ocean
with islands protruding above its surface. The representation of an island
or islands in the ocean can be traced back to the early evolution of gardens in historical times, and indeed the pond and island of the garden of
the Heian period shinden estate derived from this tradition. But the Ryòanji garden, consisting solely of rocks and sand, is so extremely severe in
layout that it seems to be an ultimate visual depiction of the medieval
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.
- Spring '13