Tuesday, December 16, 2014

SJG Field Trip to Kyoto Fall 2014 What we saw and why we saw it... Part 1 of 3

by Dewey Webster

1.) HEIAN ERA (784 -1185):

 HEIAN ERA (784 -1185):  SHINSEN-EN

• HEIAN ERA (784 -1185) SHINSEN-EN
A remnant of the first Imperial Garden created when Kyoto was founded by Emperor Kammu. The group stands under the Torii gate to the Shinto Shine dedicated to Kammu. I like to start visits to Kyoto here, to pay respects to Kammu, to establish the link between Imperial China and Imperial Japan, and try to grasp it has been here for over 1200 years

HEIAN ERA (784 -1185):  SHINSEN-EN

The orange, arched bridge from shore to Island, emphatically says “China”! Barely reflected is a Dragon Boat, on which, during festivals, people re-enact the Heian/Chinese tradition of writing poetry, while musicians play on boats. However, the Shinto Shrine’s subdued rendering reflects the Japanese preference for natural materials and colors.


Viewing this much larger remnant of a pond garden, now taken over by lotus, we can imagine Dragon Boats with musicians, dancers and poetry writers enjoying themselves out at their large villas set among expansive garden/parks.  Across the waters we can see the buildings nestled in trees, with their orange paint long given up for the weathered wood look.

Kyoto • 11/19/14: Two group members were delayed but here they join us;
alas two others were off somewhere and missed this shot.

2.) KAMAKURA ERA (1185-1392):


The ponds, and large sites, have been scaled back, but references to Chinese, influences remain: the rock composition on the far shore (hard to get to) refers to the Daoist Paradise, The Mystic Isles of the Blessed, with Mt. Horai disappearing into the trees. No longer able to afford large acreage of land, sites which looked on beyond to hills, providing “borrowed scenery” were favored.

TENRYŪ-JI means “Heaven-Dragon-Temple”, this one, painted on sliding doors opposite the garden, does not seem too pleased to have his temple garden turned into a DisneyLand for tourists….

KAMAKURA ERA (1185-1392): SAIHŌ-JI (A.K.A The “Moss Garden”)

• KAMAKURA ERA (1185-1392) SAIHŌ-JI (A.K.A The “Moss Garden”)
First an Imperial villa, then an Amida Paradise temple, now in a Zen complex, in many ways this is a garden gone to seed … er…moss (compare to Tenryū-ji). Trees, as much as moss, has taken over and the shoreline is very natural looking. But note the rocks in the pond are in a pretty straight line. Could they be left over from when pleasure boats were tied up to them?

(1185-1392): SAIHŌ-JI (A.K.A  The “Moss Garden”)

• KAMAKURA ERA (1185-1392) SAIHŌ-JI (A.K.A  The “Moss Garden”)
So as reverted-to-natural-state as it may appear, you can bet it gets lots of tender care and attention to keep it “natural” and the moss alive.

3.) MUROMACHI ERA (1393 - 1568): 

MUROMACHI ERA (1393 - 1568):  TAIZŌ-IN 

• MUROMACHI ERA (1393 - 1568) TAIZŌ-IN
The incredible shrinking garden continues…and water has been replaced by washed gravel. But the Paradise Island tradition is there with the creation of a Turtle Island. Alas tourists are not allowed into the building, so cannot see the better frontal view, but from the side we see the flat head of the turtle, the stones of its shell and a glimpse of its flat tail (more like a beaver’s to me…). Rising up the hill beyond is Mt. Horai with a waterfall-stream coursing down into the pond.

A priest gives a tour group an introduction to his temple,
and a tour leader gets a needed break to rest her weary legs. 

MUROMACHI ERA (1393 - 1568):  KŌRIN-IN

• MUROMACHI ERA (1393 - 1568) KŌRIN-IN
Where room allows the raked gravel “water” element can take on the scale of a pond. And rocks for islands, rocks for mountains and rocks for waterfalls is looking familiar.

MUROMACHI ERA (1393 - 1568):  KŌRIN-IN
Besides the main show, temples have other gardens, which often feature other items of interest. Here a Shinto Shrine and a stone lantern fill a back corner. Shrines in Buddhist temples are emblematic of the co-existence of Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto Deities of the earth are by definition everywhere. So it is important for temples to pay reverence to those beneath their feet. And stone lanterns are popular everywhere….Zen gardens, Shinto Shrines, tea gardens, etc..

4.) MOMOYAMA ERA (1568-1603):

We visited this but photos were not allowed. One needs to go on line to learn about it. But think rocks. Lots of rocks. An exuberance of rocks.

• Some visited another, Chishaku-in, and I hope they post photos and notes about it.

Next posts: EDO and MODERN ERAS...

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