Sunday, August 9, 2009

Garden design

5 Japanese Style Gardens.

­People have been turning nature into gardens for thousands of years. In the name of gardening, they train flowers that were never meant to have trunks into trees and force plants to create hybrids that never would have existed. Japanese gardens, however, differ from common Western gardens that obsess over flowers and plants. As opposed to the elaborate tulip gardens of Keukenhof, Netherlands, or the manicured Rose Garden of the White House, Japanese gardens tend to leave more to the imagination and represent nature as it is. They value even those trees with twisted, gnarled trunks and don't shy away from rugged stones.

Simple yet stunning, Japanese gardens come in several varieties. Many people are familiar with the so-called Zen gardens (more accurately called Japanese rock gardens), but less so with other Japanese garden styles. This is unfortunate because Japanese gardens try to inspire serenity and introspection by incorporating symbolic and natural elements. In this article, you'll learn about five styles of Japanese gardens that may help you achieve a little more inner peace.

Keep reading to learn about the gardens that some people think look like heaven on earth.

­The Chinese introduced gardens to Japan in the 6th century. As a result, the earliest Japanese gardens displayed a strong Chinese influence from that country's Jodo sect of Buddhism. This religion teaches that if followers chant the Buddha Amitabha's name they are assured a place in the Pure Land -- a sort of heaven before enlightenment. The Pure Land was not an intangible idea to the Japanese, but a physical reality complete with beautiful pavilions and ponds full of lotus blossoms where immortals drifted in boats.

Partly due to the civil unrest in Japan at the time, the Japanese eagerly embraced the idea of the Pure Land and tried to emulate it with paradise gardens. The aristocracy built most of these gardens, which spanned several acres, but some peasants created their own designs on a smaller scale. Since these gardens symbolize paradise, they are showier than other Japanese style gardens.

The typical paradise garden has an island in the middle of a pond to represent the future salvation and a curved bridge connecting the island to the rest of the garden to represent the path you must travel to reach that salvation. Although few original paradise gardens remain, many present-day Japanese pavilions are modeled after the buildings that once graced their grounds.

As the Jodo sect of Buddhism began to lose its appeal and was replaced by the Zen Buddhist sect, Japanese gardens became less lavish. Continue reading to learn more about these simpler gardens.

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