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STONES - GARDEN ORNAMENTS AND FENCES
STONES and rocks are such important features in all Japanese gardens that when choosing the material for the making of a landscape garden, however large or however small, the selection of the stones would appear to be the primary consideration. Their size must be in perfect proportion with the house and grounds which they are to transform into a natural landscape, and they will give the scale for all the other materials used — the lanterns, bridges, and water-basins, and even the trees and fences. Their number may vary from five important stones to as many as 188, each with its especial sense and function. I think the correct position and placing of the stones is the part of the art which it would be most difficult for a foreigner to accomplish: the mere names and special functions of the stones would require years of careful study.
To the eye of a Japanese one stone wrongly placed would upset all the balance and repose of the picture. Large rocks and boulders seem to be essential for the success of a large garden, and are used to suggest mountains, hills, and the rocks of the natural scene; any very fantastic and artificial-looking rocks are avoided, for fear they should give an appearance of unreality to the landscape. The fancy of giving sex to certain stones, and in temple grounds of assigning holy attributes and even of giving them the names of Buddhist deities, dates from very early days, and this custom of applying a religious meaning to the most important rocks survives to this day. Mr. Conder tells us that "formerly it was said that the principal boulders of a garden should represent the Kuji, or Nine Spirits of the Buddhist pantheon, five being of standing and four of recumbent form; and it was supposed that misfortune was averted by observing this classification." Stones of good shape, colour, and proportion are treasured as carefully as any jewel, and in the gardens of the rich are brought together from all parts of the empire. The granite for slabs, steps, and lanterns may come from the neighbourhood of Osaka, Bingo, and other places. Large blocks which have an irregular surface are usually limestones, and the action of water has produced those much-coveted shapes. Blue and white limestone and a kind of jasper rock of a reddish colour are prized for certain positions, slabs of a dark green colour seemed to come from the vicinity of Lake Biwa, and volcanic rock and honeycombed sea-rocks are valuable for water scenes. It would only weary the reader if I were to attempt to describe the endless combinations of stones as laid down by the unbending laws, or to give all the names applied to the various sets of stones known as Hill Stones, Lake and River Stones, Cascade Stones, Island Stones, Valley Stones, Water-basin Stones, Tea-garden Stones, and, finally, Stepping-Stones. Often did I regret that my knowledge of the art was not sufficient to enable me to recognise all these various stones. How intensely it would add to one's appreciation of these perfect specimens of artificial scenery if one could at once among the Hill Stones point out the "Mountain Summit Stone" and the poetical "Propitious Cloud Stone," or the "Mist-enveloped Stone"; or among the River and Lake Stones find the "Sentinel Stone," which, as its name suggests, should be placed in the position of a look-out man near the edge of the water; or the "Wave-receiving Stone" hidden in the current of the stream. So often the water scenery of the garden is intended to represent sea-views, the favourite being a portion of the scenery of Matsushima with its countless islets, that many of these Lake Stones have names suggestive of the sea; such as the "Sea-gull Resting Stone," situated on a stony beach, or the "Wild Wave Stone," placed so as to meet the current of the water.
Next come the Cascade Stones, which do not seem quite so numerous, and among them one at least forms so important a feature in every garden that it is easy to distinguish — the "Guardian Stone," which should form the main part of the rocky cliff over which the water falls; it is also sometimes called the "Cascade-supporting Stone." "The Stone of Fudo," named after a Buddhist god, and its eight small attendants, the "Children Stones," are among the more important features of the cascade or waterfall.
The Island Stones are perhaps more interesting still, as they are such important features in the landscape. The "Elysian Isle," the "Master's Isle," and the "Guest's Isle" are the most favourite trio of islands, and are formed of combinations of stones. That of the "Elysian Isle," whose origin comes from China, is a combination of four stones suggesting the different members of a tortoise's body, and a pine-tree of carefully trained form should grow, as it were, out of the back of the animal The "Master's Isle" has three principal stones — the "Stone of Easy Rest," which speaks for itself; the "Stone of Amusement," suggesting the best spot for fishing; and finally the "Seat Stone." The "Guest's Isle" has five important stones — the "Guest-honouring Stone"; the "Interviewing Stone"; "Shoe-removing Stone," on which the clogs or sandals are changed; the "Water-fowl Stone"; and again the "Sea-gull Resting Stone."
Among the Valley Stones many have a religious suggestion; but under this head we find the important "Stone of Worship," a broad flat stone upon which one has to assume an attitude of veneration; it should be in front of the garden, at the point from which the best view is obtained. The Water-basin Stones are not those which form the basin itself, but may merely serve as a base for the actual water receptacle, and either act as an embellishment, or perform certain functions in connection with the basin. The Tea-garden Stones have the "Kettle Stone," the "Candlestick Stone," and many others suggestive of the tea-drinking ceremonies — merely fanciful in their names, as these ceremonies invariably take place in a room, and therefore the stones are never used to fulfil their supposed functions.
Azaleas in a Kyoto Garden
Finally we come to the Stepping-Stones, and the art of the Japanese in placing these stones cannot fail to strike any one who has any interest in the making of an ordinary rock garden. Their presence in all gardens in Japan is essential, as the use of turf being almost, if not entirely, unknown for paths and open spaces, it is replaced by firmly beaten earth, or, for larger spaces, by fine sand carefully raked into patterns; as footmarks, and more especially the marks of wooden clogs, would destroy the symmetry of these patterns, and in damp weather cut up the beaten earth, the use of stones for crossing the spaces or taking a walk round the garden is an absolute necessity. The alternative name for these stones is Flying Stones or Scattered Islands, which at once suggests how gracefully and artistically they are placed. Nothing, as a rule, could be less artistic than the way stepping-stones are placed in English gardens; they seem at once to bring to my mind visions of people trying to keep a steady gait, a feat which it is positively difficult to accomplish where the stones are laid in an almost straight row. In commenting on this fact Mr. Conder says: —
It is not, therefore, surprising to find that the Japanese gardener follows carefully devised rules for the distribution of "Stepping-Stones." He uses certain special stones and combinations, having definite shapes and approximate dimensions assigned to them, and he connects these with secondary blocks, the whole being arranged with a studied irregularity, both for comfort in walking and artistic grace. This is attained by the employment of ragged slabs of slate, schist, or flint, flat water-worn rocks or boulders, and hewn slabs or discs of granite or some other hard stone. The natural boulders are placed in zigzags of fours and threes, or sometimes in threes and twos, artificially hewn slabs, discs, or strips intervening. Though uniformity of tread is carefully calculated, the different sizes of the stones cause the intervals to vary considerably, and any apparent regularity is avoided. The distance between "Stepping-Stones" should not, however, be less than four inches, to allow of the intermediate spaces being kept clean. The smaller stones are of sufficient size for the foot to rest firmly upon, and should not, as a general rule, be higher than two inches from the soil. In ancient times it is said that "Stepping-Stones" for the Emperor's gardens were made six inches high, those for a Daimyo four inches, those for ordinary Samurai nearly three inches, and for common folk an inch and a half in height. The larger stones are intended as a rest for both feet, and two of them should never be used consecutively. In some cases several continuous pathways formed of "Stepping-Stones" may be seen. When such walks branch off in two directions a larger and higher stone, called the "Step-dividing Stone," will be placed at the point of divergence.
The stones leading to the house end usually in a high slab of granite which forms the step on to the verandah. It is no exaggeration to say that the Stepping-Stones of a well-planned garden, besides being of strict utility, are a great ornament to the garden.
Probably the garden ornaments which will first attract the eye of the visitor are the stone lanterns, which are to be found in almost every garden, however humble. These lanterns appear to be of purely Japanese origin; no record of them is to be found in the history of Chinese gardens, though the introduction of miniature stone pagodas as garden ornaments came to Japan from China through the medium of Korea, for which reason they are still called "Korean Towers." The use of stone lanterns as a decoration for gardens seems to date from the days when the Professors of Tea-ceremonial turned their attention to landscape gardening. The custom of presenting votive offerings of lanterns in bronze or stone, large or small, plain or decorated, dates from early days, and no Buddhist temple or shrine is complete without its moss-grown lanterns adorning the courts and grounds. The correct placing of stone lanterns in the landscape garden is almost as complex as the placing of stones. They should be used in combination with rocks, shrubs and trees, and water-basins. They have no use except as ornaments, as seldom, if ever, did I see one with a light in its fire-box except in temple grounds. They appeared to be almost more valued for their age than their form, as new ones can be easily procured of any desired shape; but however ingenious the devices may be for imparting a look of age to new specimens, it is time, and time alone, which will bring that thick green canopy of velvet moss on their roof, and the granite will only become toned down to the coveted mellow hue by long exposure to the weather.
Roughly speaking, garden lanterns are divided into two classes, the Standard and the Legged class, though many others of fanciful design may sometimes be seen. The origin of the Standard class was known as the "Kasuga" shape, after a Shinto god to whom the well-known Nara temple is dedicated. Thousands of these Kasuga lanterns adorn the temple grounds, and the exact form is that of "a high cylindrical standard, with a small amulet in the centre, erected on a base and plinth of hexagonal plan, and supporting an hexagonal head crowned with a stone roof of double curve, having corner scrolls. The top is surmounted with a ball drawn to a point above. The head of the lantern, which is technically called the fire-box, is hollowed out, two of its faces having a square opening large enough to admit an oil lamp; and the remaining four sides being carved respectively with representations of a stag, a doe, the sun, and the moon." These lanterns may vary in size, from six to as much as eighteen feet, and in this colossal size make a most imposing decoration for a large garden. There are several other designs which closely resemble the true Kasuga shape. Many others there are which still belong to the Standard class: some with the standards shortened and the heads elongated; others with flat saucer-shaped caps or wide mushroom-shaped roofs — in fact, an infinite variety; and even in humble gardens rude specimens are seen built of natural mossy stones chosen to resemble as closely as possible the regulation form, and the fire-box made of wood. Another form of the Standard shape is suggestive of glorified lamp-posts; these lanterns are mostly used in the approach to gardens or near the tearooms. Some of them are very quaint and quite rustic in appearance, being always made of wood. The square wooden lantern on a tall post is covered by either a wooden or thatched roof with wide-projecting eaves. One of these is called the Who goes there? shape, and derives its original name from the fact that the dim light seen through its paper doors is only sufficient to enable a person to vaguely distinguish an approaching form; and the Thatched Hut shape is in the form of a little thatched cottage.
The class known as Legged lanterns have the alternative name of Snow Scene lanterns, as the very wide umbrella-shaped roof or cap, by which they are invariably covered, makes a broad surface for snow to rest upon. To the eye of a Japanese the effect of snow is almost more beautiful than any of their floral displays, and a snow-clad scene gives them infinite pleasure. The position of these lanterns in the garden should be partly overshadowed by the crooked branch of a spreading pine-tree, and certainly after a fall of snow the effect is one of great beauty.
Ornamental bronze or iron lanterns are hung by a chain from the eaves of the verandah of either the principal house or tea-room, and, like the water-basin, are often very beautiful in design. Bronze Standard lanterns are never seen in landscape gardens, only as votive offerings to temples; but occasionally an iron lantern with no standard, only resting on low feet, may be placed on a flat stone near the water's edge, or nestling in the shadow of a group of evergreen shrubs. Near the larger Kasuga-shaped lanterns a stepping-stone (or even two, if the lantern be unusually large) should be placed higher than the surrounding ones; these are called Lamp-lighting Stones, as by their aid the fire-box can be conveniently reached for lighting the lamp.
A garden water-basin may be either ornamental in form, or merely a very plain hollowed-out stone with a strictly utilitarian aspect Its position in the garden is invariably the same, within easy reach of the verandah, so that the water can be reached by the wooden ladle which is left by the side of the basin; and usually an ornamental fence of bamboo or rush-work separates it from that part of the house in its immediate neighbourhood. For a small residence, and where the basin is for practical use, the distance from the edge of the verandah should not be more than eighteen inches, and the height three to four feet; but as the law of proportion applies to the water-basin just as it applies to the rest of the composition, the ornamental basin in front of a large house will have to be three or four feet away, and its height seven or eight feet from the ground. In this case, in spite of the stepping-stones, the basin becomes merely an ornament, as it is out of reach for practical purposes, and even has to be protected by a separate decorative roof to keep off the rain.
Each shape of basin has its own name, but perhaps one of the most popular forms is that of a natural rock of some unusual shape, hollowed at the top and covered with a delicate little wooden construction, like a tiny shed or temple, to keep the water cool and unpolluted. The Running-water Basins, as their name suggests, receive a stream of clear water by means of a little bamboo aqueduct, and in that case arrangement has to be made for the overflow of the water.
As water is so essential in the composition of all landscape gardens, it is not surprising to find that the various styles of bridges which are employed to cross the lake or miniature torrents, and connect the tiny islands with the shore, are so graceful in design, and yet so simple, that they must certainly be classed as ornaments to the garden. The more elaborate bridges of stone or wood are only seen in large gardens. The semicircular arched bridge, of which the best-known example is in the grounds of the Kameido temple in Tokyo, where it forms a most picturesque object in connection with the wistaria-clad trellises, is of Chinese origin, and is supposed to suggest a full moon, as the reflection in the water below completes the circle. It was not these elaborate bridges that I admired most, but rather the simpler forms made out of a single slab of granite slightly carved, spanning a narrow channel, or, more imposing still, two large parallel blocks, overlapping in the middle of the stream, supported by a rock or by a wooden support.
Very attractive, too, are the little bridges made of bundles of faggots laid on a wooden framework, covered with beaten earth, the edges formed of turf, bound with split bamboo, to prevent the soil from crumbling away. There is an infinite variety of these little fantastic bridges, and the cleverness displayed in the placing of them was a never-failing source of admiration to me. The common idea of a bridge being a means of crossing water in the shortest and most direct manner is by no means the Japanese conception of a bridge. Their fondness for water, and their love of lingering while crossing it, in order to feed and gaze at the goldfish, or merely to enjoy the scene, has no doubt been responsible for the position of many of their bridges: one slab will connect the shore with a little rocky islet, and then, instead of continuing in the most direct route to the opposite shore, as often as not the next slab will branch away in an entirely different direction, probably with the object of revealing a different view of the garden, or merely in order to prolong the pleasure of crossing the lake or stream.
In most gardens, unless they are very diminutive in size, there is at least one Arbour or Resting Shed. It may consist merely of a thick rustic post supporting a thatched roof in the shape of a huge umbrella, with a few movable seats, or its proportions may assume those of a miniature house carefully finished in every detail. When they are of such an elaborate form they partake more of the nature of the Tea-ceremony room, with raised matted floors, plastered walls, and shoji on at least two sides of the room. The open structures in various shapes, with rustic thatched roofs, some fixed seats with a low railing or balustrade to lean against, are of more common form; and if the Resting House is by the side of the lake, a projecting verandah railed round is very popular, affording a comfortable resting-place from which to gaze at the scene.
Decorative garden wells are picturesque objects, with their diminutive roofs to protect the cord and pulley from the rain. As often as not they are purely for ornament, but even in this case the cord, pulley, and bracket should all look as antique as possible. A few stepping-stones should lead to it, and a stone lantern should be at hand with a suitable group of trees or shrubs.
Finally we come to garden fences and gateways, which again are bewildering in their infinite variety and style. The Imperial gardens, and even less imposing domains, are not enclosed by fences, but by solid walls of clay and mud, plastered over, carrying a roof of ornamental tiles. Even fences made of natural wood all carry a projecting roof to afford protection from the rain, which adds very much to their picturesque effect. The humblest garden must have two entrances, which therefore necessitates two gateways — the principal entrance, by which the guests enter, and the back entrance, called The Sweeping Opening from its practical use as a means of egress for the rubbish of the garden. This gate will be made of wood or bamboo, quite simple in style; but the Entrance Gate is a far more important feature of the domain, and must be in character with the garden it leads to. The actual garden doors are of natural wood, their panels decorated with either carving or lattice-work, and set in a wooden frame which may vary considerably in style. Roofed gateways are very common, and the practice of hanging a wooden tablet between the lintels, with an inscription either describing the style of the garden or merely conveying a pretty sentiment in keeping with its character, is often seen. The fashion of planting a pine-tree of twisted and crooked shape just inside the gateway so that its leaning branches may be seen above the fence, is not only for artistic effect, but, the pine being an emblem of good luck, it is supposed to bring long life and happiness to the owner of the garden.
Mr. Conder tells us that over a hundred drawings exist of
by the Japanese Sleeve Fences. They may be used to screen off
some portion of the
garden, but are mainly ornamental, and are usually placed near the
and a stone lantern. Without illustrations it is hopeless to attempt to
describe their fanciful shapes, each again with a poetical name. The
used in their construction consist chiefly of bamboo tubes of various
rushes and reeds tied with dyed fibre, or even the tendrils of creepers
wistaria. In some of the simpler forms the patterns are only made by
placing of the bamboo joints; but others are much more elaborate, and
panels of lattice-work formed of tied rushes or reeds, or openings of
shapes like windows. Mr. Conder gives a detailed description of an
number of these fantastic screens, and one at least I must quote as an
seven feet high and
three feet wide, having in the centre a circular hole, from which it
its name. The vertical border on one side is broken off at the edge of
orifice, so that the circle is not complete, and this gives it the form
three-quarter moon. Above the hole the bundles of reeds are arranged
vertically, like bars, and below in a diagonal lattice-work, tied with
Through the openings in these fences a branch of pine, or some creeper, is often brought through and trained with excellent effect.
I feel I have said enough about the materials used for the construction of a landscape garden, to convey to the mind of the reader something of the difficulties which surround the correct combination of these materials, and sufficient to make any one realise that the making of a Japanese garden is a true art, which it is not surprising that it is impossible for a foreigner to imitate, hence the lamentable failure of the so-called "Japanese gardens" which it has been the fashion of late years to try and make in England frequently by persons who have never even seen one of the gardens of Japan. The owner of probably the best of these English "Japanese gardens" was showing his garden, which was the apple of his eye, to a Japanese, who with instinctive politeness was full of admiration, but had failed to recognise the fact that it was meant to be a true landscape garden of his own country, and therefore exclaimed, "It is very beautiful; we have nothing at all like it in Japan!"