Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Shukkeien Garden

The following post predates my creation of my own garden and this blog. 

As a 2007 participant on a Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund exchange, I had the opportunity to visit the Shukkeien Garden in Hiroshima, Japan. At the time, I did not have much of an interest in gardening or a desire to visit gardens. In many ways that experience was the seeds that have grown into my current interests. I therefore thought it would be appropriate to add this post from my Japan blog to the garden blog.

Map the Shukkeien Garden: 

Originally constructed in 1620 as a villa garden during the Edo period for Nagaakira Asano, the ruling Daimyo at the time, it is said to have been modeled after Lake Xihua (West lake) in Hangzhou, China. The garden continued to serve as the villa of the Asano family through the Meiji period. At one point the Meiji Emperor, who had the Imperial General Headquarters relocated to Hiroshima, briefly lodged at the villa. The gardens were eventually opened to the public, and in 1940 the Asano family donated them to Hiroshima Prefecture. Being a short walk from hypocenter of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima, Shukkeien suffered extensive damage and then became a refuge for victims of the war. After extensive renovations, it reopened in 1951. Today, the garden is a magnificent location to view Japan's love of nature, even in the midst of an urban environment.

After the Atomic Bomb
Today - Fully Restored
The pictures below are displayed in the order in which they were taken so as to give you a feeling for the experience of walking through a circular-tour garden (the path I took went counter clockwise):

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Humble Administrator's Garden

As part of my experience as a 2007 Fulbright Scholar to China, I had the opportunity to visit several Chinese scholar gardens in Suzhou, China. The excerpt below is from my China Blog.

The Humble Administrator's Garden (Zhouzheng Yuan) was the second garden we visited in Suzhou. The garden is about 13 acres in size and was much larger than the Master-of-the-Nets garden we had visited earlier (it was also much more crowded). The garden had its origins as a scholar garden during the Tang Dynasty, was converted to a monastery garden for Dahong Temple during the Yuan Dynasty, and then In 1513 (Ming Dynasty) an administrator named Wang Xianchen appropriated the temple and converted it into a private villa with gardens. The design and layout of the garden was established by Wen Zhengming, a famous Ming artist. During the late Ming dynasty, the garden was divided up and remained neglected until the Qing Dynasty reigns of Emperors Shunzhi and Kangxi. At that time, the garden was extensively rebuilt with major modifications to its earlier plan. 

The garden today is one of the more popular of the Suzhou gardens, as the large crowds proved. There are numerous pavilions and bridges set among a maze of connected pools and islands. It consists of three major parts set about a large lake: the central part (Zhuozheng Yuan), the eastern part (Guitianyuanju - Dwelling Upon Return to the Countryside), and a western part (the Supplementary Garden). A residential complex lies in the south of the garden.

In total, the garden contains 48 different buildings with 101 tablets; 40 stelae; 21 precious old trees; and over 700 Suzhou-style bonsai. It is safe to say that the "humble administrator" was somewhat less than humble. I, for one preferred the Master-of-the-Nets garden over this garden - it was smaller, and more refined and I believe truly reflected the spirit of a traditional Chinese scholar garden.

Master-of-the-Nets Garden

As part of my experience as a 2007 Fulbright Scholar to China, I had the opportunity to visit several Chinese scholar gardens in Suzhou, China. The excerpt below is from my China Blog.

The first garden visited was the Master-of-the-Nets Garden (Wangshi Yuan). This garden is among the finest gardens in China and has been designated a United Nations World Heritage site (along with nine other Suzhou gardens). 

The garden is an excellent example of a traditional Chinese scholars garden, combining art, nature, and architecture to create an environment that begs one to walk through its environs. The garden was first constructed over 800 years ago (1140 AD, Southern Song dynasty), but the design has changed several times since then. Nevertheless, the name of the garden has remained constant since its creation. The Master-of-the-Nets continue to inspire people to come and walk through its buildings, along side its ponds, and sit within the gardens and enjoy the scenery and beauty of the place. Doing so is meant to inspire one intellectually, and there is no doubt that the garden has the ability to inspire (Although it could achieve that goal more effectively with less people milling about. Although in Chinese standards it was not crowded, I do not think the original intention of the garden designer and owners was to accommodate large numbers of people).

Interestingly, a portion of the Master-of-the-Nets Garden is duplicated inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Metropolitan Museum of Art