Ying Zheng (Oriole)
Eng 1ASpirituality in Gardening
Archaeological discovers that human gardening history began in the 15th century B.C. For principle, garden is a piece of ground where flowers, trees, plants, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and rocks are present as a recreation area. The most important aspect of gardens is not only their great beauty of it but their purity and naturalness. What do Gardens signify? Garden changes the local polluted environment by adding natural elements rather artificial elements as it creates spontaneous and offers surprises. A garden as a tool of communication is a conduit between nature and human. Building a garden, not only planting and watering but it also involves climate, soil, space structure, plant properties and so on; moreover, it needs style matching. If people do not maintain the garden regularly, nature will exert its power to take back all the gardeners’ creation. Even though gardening is troublesome of working but many people still delight in it and never get tired of it. Why we still garden then? We live in crowded, highly manipulated spaces that make us feel detached from the natural world. People design and planting gardens for expression of the way they love nature. They want to release the pressure, cheer their mood, and reap the beauty from gardens. Nature also will give presents of happy, peaceful, and mental attributes to people by gardens. Designing and building gardens was an art in Asia as it makes homes more elegant and attractive in its own way. Chinese garden, Japanese garden, Zen garden and Bonsai are four representatives of the Eastern garden. Through study the differences and similarity between those gardens’ style, we can understand how these gardens have constituted a miniature that is designed in praise of the harmony between human and nature, and why people obsess with gardens and continue gardening.
Unlike the western “planting” garden, Chinese people use saying “build” gardens. Chinese traditional garden design is good at using some natural landscape to create a small natural environment, pavilions, rockery, ponds, plants and so on, which are commonly used for landscape elements. The Chinese Garden: Garden Types for Contemporary Landscape Architecture, a book about the type of Chinese garden in China was written by Bianca Maria Rinaldi. Rinaldi introduces various garden types from the perspective of contemporary landscape and garden design. He also pointed out the necessary principles for designing Chinese gardens, the most common plants and the most distinctive USES, and the possibility of using them in contemporary projects. Many Chinese people believe in geomancy (Feng Shui); therefore, Chinese gardens are intended to encourage people to roam freely in their inner thoughts and are designed around some principles.
Fitting the limits of its area while providing the element of surprise, in the sense that there are other things to be seen in Chinese gardens used plants as symbols. The phase of nature with rivers flowing and plants growing represent a world of its own that relates to the facility of human thoughts and the balance of yin and yang. Bamboo was used in every traditional Chinese garden. This is because bamboo represents a strong but resilient character. Often pine is used to represent longevity, persistence, tenacity, and dignity. Chinese gardens traditionally symbolize various philosophical ideas; also, represent a world of its own, complete in thought—with all phases of nature represented in the service of human thoughts—the yin and yang. Besides, reflect the local environment by incorporating natural rather artificially elements—spontaneous and offering surprises rather than simple symmetry. From the design of Chinese style garden, that can be revealed about Chinese attitude toward nature which is a concept of Pharming a view, creating a viewing platform, to heighten people understanding of nature and enhance our experience of nature.
Although, Chinese gardens had a very strong influence on Japanese gardens; however, gradually Japanese gardens developed their own principles and aesthetics. Japanese gardens were strongly influenced by the Chinese philosophy of Daoism and Amida Buddhism, imported from China in or around 552 AD. Japanese witnessed the gardens that were being built in China and brought many of the Chinese gardening techniques and styles back to Japan. Although gardens are different in their various ways by location and designs, gardens in Japan and China have the same significance that signifies all of them. The main purpose of the Japanese garden is to try to be a space to capture the beauty of nature. The ability to capture nature’s nature makes the Japanese garden unique and attractive to observers. The Japanese garden has always been regarded as a representative of the natural environment. Japanese have a spiritual connection with their land and the spirit of nature, which explains why they like to incorporate natural materials into their gardens.
Nothing in a Japanese garden is natural or left to chance; each plant is chosen according to aesthetic principles, either to hide undesirable sights, to serve as a backdrop to certain garden features, or to create a picturesque scene. Because of the absolute importance of natural rock and tree arrangement, finding the right material becomes highly selective; therefore, creating small Spaces in these gardens often poses challenges for gardeners. Gardeners want to create a place of respite entirely in keeping with the original purpose of the Japanese tea house and Zen garden as a getaway from the bustle of everyday life. Indeed, both tea house and dry garden, and their interactions with each other embody both the spiritual and experiential concept of Zen.
By the 15th century, a style of Japanese gardens moved toward total abstraction, though without entirely losing a link with materiality. Water and vegetation decreased (and even disappeared in some cases) and there were only a delineated area and some grouping of rocks. A concept of Zen Buddhism, one totally palpable and perceivable with all our senses, is the rock garden, or as it is usually known as Zen garden. The tranquility of the Japanese landscape and the simple and delicate structure of the Japanese Zen garden are what really make the garden unique. In an article “Japanese Zen Garden: How to Create a Zen Garden”, Jackie Carroll describes Zen gardens’ concept and shows how to Create a Zen Garden. He thinks that creating Zen gardens is a great way to reduce stress, can improve your focus, and develop a sense of well-being. In the Zen tradition, the gardens to remind people that life can be elemental, simple.
Some Zen gardens were called “meditation rocks” because of their simplicity, their very reason for being was to radiate silence, calm and tranquility to anyone contemplating them. Therefore, Zen gardens also called rock gardens or dry gardens, they attract people who like carefully controlled rocks environments and precisely trimmed shrubs. Carefully raked sand or gravel with precisely placed rocks are the main parts of Zen gardens. Stones to symbolize mountains or island, the moss lands as green-lands on the other side and gravel is harrowed around the land to symbolize rivers. Zen gardens absolutely every aspect had been considered in terms of both functional and aesthetic purpose. On another level, it can be viewed as a metaphor for life’s journey, a place conducive to entering a meditative state, which calms and renews the spirit. This renewal of spirit and meditative focus are characteristics of Buddhism. In Zen monks’ eyes, those stones, moss lands and gravel are like the sea, hills, island, and waterfalls. These tranquil Zen gardens have a religious meaning designed to aid people for enlightenment; however, it is a retreat within a retreat, where we can go to enjoy a relaxing time. Closing to nature will make us easy to find a place for yourself to relax, meditate or simply look at the plant life in the gardens.
Many people express their desire to connect with nature, especially by planting some plants in gardens; yet, sometimes their living conditions cannot achieve their purpose. Especially in Chinese towns, there is no more space for planting flowers or trees in their houses, which is a pity for people who live in apartments. In ancient China, there was a kind of gardening skill for plant trees at garden pots. People could plant a tree in a small area even a flowerpot. Therefore, we could also build the personal “mini garden” at home. This gardening art is called “Bonsai”. In fact, Bonsai is a technique of artificial pruning and training to control a tree and make it grow into a mature but very small proportion tree in a pot. Why people design Bonsai? In “The Hands-On Gardener”, Kosta Daniel expounds what Bonsai is and discusses how to make a Bonsai. He said it is not a scale model of a natural tree, and it is the essence of the tree reduced down to its most basic forms and simplified so it can be more easily understood and appreciated. He thinks it provides a soothing, relaxing way to take a break from the tensions of our world. For gardeners, making these Bonsai trees is one of the calming ways to show their gardening spirit.
Similarly, when Zen Buddhism spread in Japan, Chinese Bonsai tree also was spread to Japan by some Japanese monks. They think Bonsai is a symbol of honor and a highly refined gardening art. In addition, Bonsai is something very personal and no specific rules for its development. If people want to keep the Bonsai beautiful, they need a lot of time, patience, skill and endurance. Today, design Bonsai is seen as a hobby that allows people to understand nature and improve the gardens. People can meditate and feel a peaceful force from the Bonsai. In short, the human spirit, nature change, elements of Bonsai are reflected in this unique form of meditation and expression.
For the Easterner, they associate plants with the beliefs of Zen Buddhism, people and nature as one, and express their spirit through meditation and gardening. However, in modern times, gardening is more of a hobby, because it helps to understand and integrate nature, and it also enhances the beauty of the garden. A garden is a space we carve out of our human-dominated world and bring in little bits of nature. Gardens are not only the embodiment of gardeners’ idea or hobby but also the realm of their homage and spiritual pursuit to nature. By providing the element of surprise within the certain area, gardens enhance our senses that there are other things to be seen and appreciate in life.
Overall, a garden is a place for people to create designs in nature through a lot of control and intervention. In order to be closer to nature, people try to shape their environment into an attractive place, and their enthusiasm for gardening seems from some primitive reactions to nature, they hope to create harmony through cooperation with nature. Also, gardens will forgive inexperienced people to some extent; yet, in many ways tolerant, nature still reminds people that all gardening is done in the laws of nature. In Michael Pollan’s another book, The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World, he ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a similarly reciprocal relationship. He masterfully links four fundamental human desires-sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control-with the plants that satisfy them. In telling the stories of four familiar species, Pollan illustrates how the plants have evolved to satisfy humankind’s most basic yearnings. Therefore, people need to learn transposition thinking and just as we’ve benefited from these plants, gardeners have also done well by them.
Besides, continuous gardening is an art practiced in a peaceful atmosphere, and the appeal of gardening is multifaceted and wide-ranging. Many people think this is a pursuit of relaxation and healing. Gardens also as a part of nature and a place of contemplation and occupies a special place in the spiritual life of many people. For the Easterner, they associate plants with the beliefs of Zen Buddhism, people, and nature as one, and express their spirit through meditation and gardening. However, in most of the people’s heart, gardening is more of a hobby, because it helps to understand and integrate nature, and it also enhances the beauty of the garden. A garden is a space we carve out of our human-dominated world and bring in little bits of nature. Gardens are not only the embodiment of gardeners’ idea or hobby but also the realm of their homage and spiritual pursuit to nature. By providing the element of surprise within the certain area, gardens enhance our senses that there are other things to be seen and appreciate in life.