Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Unit 86 Meeting with Dr. Eugene Webb

SJG • 8/20/11 - Dr. Eugene Webb: lecture  in Tateuchi Community Room;
lousy pic by aleks
by Maggie C

Dr. Eugene Webb, Emeritus Professor, The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington, presented Unit 86 guides with the topic, How Buddhism Became Japanese, on Saturday, August 20, in the TCR.  Via slides and lecture, Dr. Webb's presentation gave a fascinating overview of the beginning and growth of Buddhism from India, through China and Korea, to Japan. 

Dr. Webb's discussion included topics of how elements of other religions and beliefs influenced and combined with Buddhism, the rise of Zen and Exoteric buddhist practices, and the creation of the Tendai School in Japan.

His presentation have us all a better framework for understanding why the Seattle Japanese Garden is a Chaniwa Garden (Tea Garden), and appreciation for the historical design influences of the Garden's Pagoda.  We all learned a great deal from this scholarly presentation. 

For further reading, Dr. Webb's latest book is Worldview and Mind: Religious Thought and Psychological Development

Many thanks to Dr. Webb, and our Education Committee!
P.S. from aleks - here are some active links regarding info on 'chaniwa gardens', in response to Keiko's comment below:
• Japanese Gardens: the Chaniwa - on asiawelcome.com
• Chaniwa gardens at wikipedia: Japanese gardens- wiki
• Gardens in Japan: A to Z Photo Dictionary
Thanks Maggie, Keiko and dr. Webb, for all the teaching - much appreciated. aleks


  1. The teahouse with the surrounding roji (chaniwa) is one of the very important parts of our Japanese garden. That have been said, I would like to point out that Dr. Webb’s interpretation of our entire Japanese garden being “chaniwa” is rather unique.

    Mr. Iida, one of the most important designers of the garden, states in his article that this garden is a “stroll garden” (which contains suhama, nakajima, a moon-viewing platform, among others). Mr. Kitamura, an Engineer at Tokyo Metropolitan Parks Department, specifically mentions that “In order to prevent other people from entering the tea garden during the tea ceremony, we planted a low hedge of Hiba arborvitae so that others can view the tea house from outside of the tea garden.”

  2. hi Keiko, thanks for your thoughtful comment on Maggie C's great post. i just looked up 'chaniwa garden', and will post active links on it under Maggie's post.

    are you saying that because of low hedge around roji, for people to be able to view-in, our tea house garden does not qualify as real 'chaniwa'? as in this this 'asia welcome' description?:
    [...] The typical quality of the Chaniwa gardens is to have an atmosphere of loneliness and the feeling which is produced is of absolute withdrawal from the existing world.[...]

    most interesting, and perhaps i'm not understanding it well (not the first time!). please, write more!

  3. Thank you for your response, aleks.

    I believe our tea house garden IS a real "chaniwa."

    It may be typical of a chaniwa "to have an atmosphere of loneliness and the feeling which is produced is of absolute withdrawal from the existing world," I don't think all tea gardens have that as a requirement to be called chaniwa.

    Let's see what Natalie has to say about this. ;)

    Beside, in our case, "the existing world" is outside of the ticket booth beyond the transition stone, isn't it? Our tea garden can be seen from outside of the low hedge, but I think it still keeps isolated atmosphere from the rest of the garden (and the entire world.) :)

    By the way, this must be the site you have looked up. It is such a beautiful page!


  4. thanks for clarification, Keiko. so what does the word 'chaniwa' really mean? is is 'translatable' at all? help! is it a concept, if not a word? thanks!

  5. I’m responding to what’s been written on the blog concerning Dr. Eugene Webb’s talk of 20.August. I was not present at the talk.

    Thank you, Keiko, for providing important and clarifying quotes from the writings of Mr. Iida and of Mr. Kitamura concerning the Seattle Japanese Garden (SJG).

    The SJG is a Japanese style garden of the stroll-type. A stroll-type garden leads us through a rhythmic sequence of ever-changing views and landscapes---unrolling ‘like a scroll painting’. Within the stroll garden these views take in features such as those listed by Keiko---suhama, nakajima, tsukimi dai, etc .

    Stroll-type garden design itself arose in Japan well after the development of tea gardens. Not only did the stroll-type garden follow the lead of tea gardens by using quintessential elements such as stepping stone paths and lanterns, but the stroll-type garden, being large, came to actually add a tea garden among its features.

    Considered a radical design in its day and a garden prototype, the tea garden, however, was developed by 16th century tea masters in Japan as an integral part of chanoyu, which many Westerners call ‘tea ceremony’. (Chanoyu literally means ‘hot water for tea’---behind that simple translation is a profundity beyond the scope of this writing.) Though compact, tea gardens are brilliantly designed to evoke the solitude of a journey on a path in a forested mountain.

    The term chaniwa is from cha meaning ‘tea’ and niwa meaning ‘garden’. That said the term roji is widely used for tea garden, which is fundamentally a path. Translations for roji provide insight into how this path is essential to the centuries-old practice of chanoyu. Briefly, these translations for roji include ‘narrow passageway’, dewy path’ and ‘to disclose self-nature’. A ‘journey’ upon the stepping stone path of the roji prepares one for entering the tea room and mindfully participating in a tea gathering.

    Many roji in Japan are private. To separate them from surrounding areas, perimeter barriers like hedges have been used--- a particularly useful design element to help achieve the sense of a ‘mountain path’ if the location is in town.

    In stroll-type gardens, roji are not as insulated, yet the perimeter is clear. Roji are for tea-related activities only, not for walking about as the stroll garden is. The roji at the SJG has a perimeter hedge in which are placed two simple gates, one at the east for entry and one at the west for exit. Inside the roji middle gates are utilized as well. The roji and tearoom are a dojo, a training space, for chado, the Way of Tea---the practice of the principles of chanoyu.

    In 1959 the gift of a teahouse to Seattle from the city of Tokyo helped propel the building of our stroll garden at the Washington Park Arboretum. When it was built in 1960, our stroll garden was called the ‘Japanese Tea Garden’, following a naming trend. Later on ‘Tea’ was dropped in favor of the more appropriate, and simpler, ‘Japanese Garden’. Could Dr. Webb be thinking of the old name when he classifies the stroll-type garden at the SJG as a chaniwa? It certainly isn’t apparent to this writer how a stroll-type garden could be mistaken for a chaniwa, tea garden or roji.

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