The Japanese Gardens

Ponds and Shorelines

By its nature, water is often considered a source of purification, both literally and spiritually, and as a source of cool refreshment. Its use in Japanese gardens reflects these universal associations as well as the specific Shinto reverence for water. Ponds and streams‚ either real or implied‚ have been part of the Japanese garden from its earliest history. In the noble gardens of the Nara and Heian Periods, the boating pond was the major component of the garden, generally located to the south of a shinden complex and fed by a stream entering from the north east. It was the site of elaborate parties and dramatic events, often involving dragon boats of exotic design. With one fragmentary exception, the Byodo-in at Uji, the great Heian villas have disappeared as have most of their gardens, but the ponds of several Kyoto estates still exist to give some idea of their scale and general design. In addition to their social function, the large ponds eventually came to be thought of as simulations of mythical or esoteric lakes and seas, including the oceans of the Hindu cosmos or the lake believed to be part of the Western Paradise of Amida Buddhism. The latter is represented by the ponds of the Byodo-in, Joruri-ji, and Saiho-ji (Saiho-ji was originally an Amida temple), the former by the great pond of Kinkaku-ji. [This section is continued on the next page.]

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Shinden Villa Byodo-in Kaju-ji Ryoan-ji
Katsura Shugaku-in
Shosei-en Kinkaku-ji Katsura Shugaku-in
Shisen-do Nishimura Samurai House Seiryu-en
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