A história dos jardins japoneses | Nível avançado

Como evoluíram estes ícones do zen budismo e da contemplação?


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A short history of Japanese gardens


Gardens have met human needs since Babylonian kings created the Hanging Gardens. Majestic and heaven-like, these gardens projected an image of wealth and power over a rigidly controlled society. The reverence and wonder these gardens inspired are the opposite to the austere Shinto gardens built a thousand years later in Japan.


Designed as places of worship, Shinto ‘shrines’ consisted of no more than a pad of gravel occupying a small forest clearing. These wall-less gardens of worship were used as intermediary zones where humans could connect and present offerings to forest spirits (kami). These forest shrines marked the beginning of the integration of gardens into Japanese society.


Chinese influences

Japanese gardens changed from spiritual retreats in the forest to actual interpretations of nirvana after the country opened up to China. Around the fifth century, Buddhism and Feng Shui began influencing Japanese garden design, and remained so for the next thousand years.


Japan’s late adoption of Buddhist principles, along with the complications of their integration with indigenous Shinto principles, meant that Japanese gardens tended to incorporate Buddhist elements rather superficially. Japanese gardens were also able to diversify in ways that Chinese gardens could not, because the Chinese followed the strict rules of Feng Shui in ways the Japanese didn't.


In Chinese gardens, walls, benches, a roof and clear-cut walkways favored comfort and practicality over intimacy with nature. Japanese gardens, however, show reverence towards nature and the seasons. They are a way for one to re-establish oneself with nature, to represent nature.


Zen gardens

As the Heian period came to an end, Japanese society went through massive changes, including the disintegration of centralized power, continuous warfare, a series of devastating natural disasters and the regression to a feudal system. A new warrior class (samurai) acquired ruling status. Designed in accordance to Zen principles ―a newer sect of Buddhism the samurai class embraced― the new gardens were now often built by priests and were part of their efforts to communicate the ideals of Zen Buddhism. Gardens went from being excessively decadent, to austere and symbolic displays of stone, a sharp contrast to the fanciful gardens of Heian times. These two types of garden represent two very different lifestyles — the life of the aristocrat (Heian period), and the life of the warrior (afterwards).


Tucked-away tea gardens

Japanese tea gardens were the first gardens accessible to the middle class. They provided escape from chaotic and crowded city life. Tea gardens are small and often secluded. They usually contain a variety of dense, lush foliage. A host prepares tea, while the guest slowly makes his/her way along a stone path, through the garden and finally to the teahouse, where an elegant process of tea drinking unfolds.


Japanese tea gardens are rather unique physically. The tea garden and tea ceremony are byproducts of Zen Buddhism. During the sixteenth century, Japan was plagued once again by continuous warfare. Samurai coming from rural areas were required to live in a chaotic city environment. Nature was not a part of daily life. Tea Gardens became a Zen-inspired sanctuary so that samurai could cope with idle urban life.


There's an unshakable bridge linking gardens to spirituality. With the tea ceremony’s strict Zen principles and the garden’s secluded atmosphere, it becomes clear that these are spiritual retreats just like the original Shinto forest gardens.


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VOCABULARY


Pad (noun)

A thick piece of soft material used to reduce friction, enlarge or change the shape of something, or hold or absorb liquid.


Gravel (noun)

A loose aggregation of small water-worn or pounded stones.


Clearing (noun)

An open, clear area in the middle of a forest.


Warfare (noun)

State of war.


Fanciful (adjective)

Fancy.


Tucked-away (adjective)

Hidden away, secluded.


Secluded (adjective)

Hidden away, secret, protected, private.


Lush (adjective)

(of vegetation) growing luxuriantly.


Byproduct (noun)

An incidental or secondary product made in the production of something else.


To cope (verb)

To live with, to be able to deal with.


Idle (adjective)

In a state of no activity.

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