A Reverence for Nature in the Asian Garden…….

A Reverence for Nature in the Asian Garden…….


“No single view allows us to make sense of the whole in a Japanese garden. It slowly reveals itself detail by detail.”
An Asian garden should be designed such that it encourages reflection. Nature is represented in all aspects of this garden style, but on a smaller scale. The main characteristics of an Asian, Japanese or Zen garden includes water or in it’s place, raked gravel or sand, long stemmed reeds, perhaps some bamboo and rock. Japanese maples are often used as a focal point, with the garden accessorized with a Buddha, stone urn or statuary, lanterns, a unique rock or boulder. Dwarf shrubs are often used. Bonsai is sometimes placed in sections of the garden as well. In both large and small Asian gardens we often see bridges. There are some stylistic difference between Chinese and Japanese gardens, but there are enough similarities that for the purposes of determining if this is your style, I am considering them as a whole.

Red Japanese maples are key in most Asian gardens. Here we see the tree trunk and rock covered in moss, representing “Koko” or maturity and patina.      Source

A well chosen fence and or gate sets off the plants and provides the division in the relationship in revealing the  “part of the whole” tenant so important in Asian gardens. Source

Gates and fences are as integral to an Asian garden as maples and lanterns.    Source

The light or lantern is symbol of enlightenment.  Source

Typical of the lanterns found in these gardens.   Source


The Zen Aesthetic embraces six guiding principles seen in Asian gardens. I will mention them here as they provide a good basic understanding for viewing the following photos of this style of garden. *Fukinsei means asymmetry. *Kanso or simplicity. *Koko or patina; examples worn and moss covered stone, worn wood. * Yugen- the mystery, i.e. what is around the next path? * Datsoku or wonder. Seijaku or stillness or peace that one feels in these gardens.

White stone or gravel represents the empty space of a vast body of water. Three stones, known as Sanzon-ishi-gumi, is used often and represents the Buddha and nyorai, or less buddhas.

Wonderful photo illustrating several of the design principles of the Japanese garden.    Source

Here we see the use of structure, a Tatami Room to enhance the Asian theme of the garden space. Notice the sunken dining area, and the use of the 3 rock principle. As well the creative use of a tree limb as a corner post, and stone ledges that each display Bonsai.  Designed by Jamie Durie       Source

This is a good photo for illustrating one of the basic principles….asymmetry. There is no perfection in the world, and it is this imbalance that creates the life force. Quite a difference from the formal garden guiding principles. Westerners often have difficulty with this.      Source

A waterfall over two feet high in the Japanese garden represents the Fudo, the fierce guardian of the heavens, and protector during times of calamity.      Source

What is beyond? The question asked in any Asian garden that succeeds in using the guiding principles. Source


In the strictest sense, one would not use square shapes because in nature there are not square bodies of water, and the gravel represents water. However, as in any garden, we often take leeways, and it results in a successful implementation.       Source

A quite peaceful Asian inspired garden in the light of evening. Source

The bridge represents man from his world to the one of nature, considered a step up. A basic symbol of transition. Source

The color red is symbolic of life force, so it is easy to see why the color is so dominant in the bridges used in Asian gardens. Often the bridge is left natural.     Source

If this style appeals to you and you decide to study more about the principles and philosophy behind this style, I highly recommend this book Japanese Garden Design, by Marc Peter Keane & Haruzo Ohashi. Available here.

And if you want to read some more detail about Japanese gardens, go here for some interesting articles.

And for some beautiful photos, check out these from John Lander, photographer


Below is a beautiful, less than 3 minute video on Japanese Gardens. I would suggest lowering the sound level or even muting the music. The images of these gardens can stand on their own. Enjoy, thank you for stopping by. Laters, charisse

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