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« Hillary's Woes - Looking back on an I Ching Reading | Main | Whole 'lotta Confucians Out There »

February 17, 2008

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I would suggest that a Taoist garden might look like a permaculture installation or Masanobu Fukuoka's farm, gardening with natural forces rather than against them using minimal tillage and succession planting based upon natural systems. You could also look at the work done at Auroville in India, their tree planting and anti-erosion strategies that have changed the local climate after a few decades.

In my short time in China, I didn't get to see many traditional Chinese gardens but have spent more time with the Japanese gardens in Kyoto, Tokyo, and Kamakura. I originally went to Japan in part because I wanted to see Ryoanji Sekitei personally, a world masterpiece.

Many Japanese gardens are Buddhist, especially Zen. At Ryoanji, I was impressed by the beautiful walk toward the temple itself, with a small lake full of water lilies setting off the verdant hills. At the temple, the celebrated sand and stone garden merges neatly into a bright green moss garden to the side. Why didn't I see anyone sitting to enjoy the pond or the moss?

Of course the rocks in Japanese gardens may intentionally evoke the mountains and streams of Chinese paintings.

Taipei is not quite a city of Chinese gardens, so the only Suzhou-style garden I've seen is one that occupies a small city block in central Portland, Oregon. Its integration of buildings, covered walkways, ponds, bridges, and greenery is wonderful, meaning the Huntington's far larger garden could be worth a trip to L.A. I thought the US National Arboretum in NE Washington was supposed to get a Chinese garden, but I suspect it hasn't happened.

What would a truly Taoist garden look like?

It would flow in with life as life. So a non Taoist would never "see" a Taoist Garden as a garden.

Yet a Taoist sees the entire world as the garden. There are no boundaries from the cities of man to the jungles of Africa... its all the garden and of the garden which is one.

peace

The garden is a symbol of an existing piece of land, and it encaptures in a small space the idea that was seen. Ever place could be a Taoist garden if the balance is there and the garden helps to create the balance [ying and yang].

I try to capture this in my backyard, by letting every plant conform to its own existence and I only gardening in the area as an individual who loves to see things grow. The climate in Houston is very hot in the summer and I intend to allow the plants to wither if they can not get enough water.

I started from the basic by observing the rocks and transforming the compost to dirt for the plants. As the seeds sprout with the help of water from the pond and rain, I aid this process by removing unwanted plants and placing rings [used as raised bed] around to capture the sunlight. So the garden is all in balance with nature, with air, water, fish, birds, earth, etc.

If you are interested in viewing, goto: wwww.realteachers.org/retire/rock.htm

Chee,
Thanks. The pictures of your garden are beautiful. Makes me think:

There the ten thousand things arise,
and in them I watch the return:
all things on and ever on
each returning to its root.

Tao Te Ching, 16

"I would suggest that a Taoist garden might look like a permaculture installation or Masanobu Fukuoka's farm, gardening with natural forces rather than against them using minimal tillage and succession planting based upon natural systems."

"gmoke" is right on about this part of his comment, at least in concept. Masanobu Fukuoka has been doing this for decades, as documented in the translation/summary of his Japanese books called "One Straw Revolution." There are some externalities, and some of the "not doing" is actually rather laborious - for example, his ingenious adoption of the technique of coating seeds in protective mud shells. Some predictability goes out the window - but he saves a ton on not having to use chemical inputs.

The appearance of a present day chinese garden has more to do with the landscape designer than with the concept. Western designers go for control, sterility, spacing, bare dirt, and uniformity, whereas easterners go for landscape design that evokes a feeling of being in nature.

The chinese garden in Portland illustrates this difference. Over a period of ten years the landscape design has gone from a chinese vision of evoking nature to the western vision of keeping the plants under control.

Whereas the original designer was a licensed landscape designer from Suzhou, the present gardener is a westerner without any training or educational background in chinese culture or landscape design, much less chinese garden landscape design. Sadly, she doesn't know that she doesn't know.

The result is that walking thru the garden is less like walking in nature and more like walking thru a plant farm like the countless ones in parking lots, in front of malls, hospitals, etc. that pass for landscaping these days.

So before drawing conclusions from viewing present day gardens about whether a chinese garden is taoist or not, one must consider whether the present designer is taoist or not. If the designer is not taoist, then the garden will not be taoist.

a taoist garden is a painting from chi,the true garden is the world

i agree completely with casey that a non Taoist would never "see" a Taoist Garden as a garden.

whereas a Taoist sees the entire world as the garden. There are no boundaries from the cities of man to the jungles of Africa... its all one.

A Taoist garden is a road map with many signposts showing the WAY,it puts you in that dimension where you can feel the WAY.It smiles on us,it lays it all out for us,And lets us decided what it really is.For me walking through the moongate into a Taoist garden is entering heaven's gateway.

We all have different standards for beauty. In assessing the beauty of a garden, familiarization with different design traditions can come in handy. Be objective in this evaluation. When asked about your personal opinion, try to be as neutral as possible in your choice of words. Diversity is a good thing in the designing world

A Taoist garden is believed to be made of purely natural landscape – rocks, streams, valleys, and peaks. And according to Chinese architecture, the rising and falling movements from any body of water is said to be material embodiments of Yin and Yang. A Taoist garden would probably look like paradise.

Aww, I feel so connected with the nature! It shows how beautiful nature really is. Taoist gardens are the perfect place for soul searching. They’re so very peaceful and refreshing!

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