Fountains in Japanese Gardens - Meaning and Symbolism of Water
The Meaning and Symbolism in Japanese Gardens
Over the last eight years or so, I have really come to love Japanese gardens. I very much enjoy seeing Japanese gardens wherever I see them. Usually, this is in botanical gardens. Currently, I live nearest to the Saint Louis Botanical Garden in Missouri. They have a very lovely Japanese garden there.
It is very interesting to learn what symbolism means in a Japanese garden. The focus here will be on water and symbolism in general.
To fully understand the making and beauty that a Japanese garden represents, one must try to capture the "spirit" of the Japanese garden. Nature is always the ideal one must strive for in a Japanese garden. Nothing overly fancy or against the natural flow we see in nature will fit well in a Japanese garden. If you ever get to far involved in the gardening process where you recreate something that nature could not have done, then that is too far.
I have heard of the example of a square pond. People who love ponds, like myself, love all shapes and kinds of ponds. I have another article showcasing some formal pond gardens that are very rectangular in shape. The problem with that is that you would never find a square or rectangular shape in the wild. So it must not be in a Japanese garden.
Balance is a key part of the Japanese garden as well. Recreating a large "landscape" even in a small space is something that is really neat. Rocks can present a whole mountain and a small pool can "become a lake." Small patches of raked sand can represent an entire ocean. The minute I heard that, I smiled because I love the effect of the raked sand or fine gravel. That it represents such a large body of water is just beautiful to me.
"Less is more" is a key component to Japanese gardening.
As a nation, Japan gets a lot of rainfall. It is not surprising that water is a key element in Japanese gardening. As I mentioned before, even the raking of sand or gravel represents water, such as in the karesansui garden.
Perhaps you have seen the flat river stones, I can just picture them now. These are known to symbolize a rushing stream. Such a stream smooths stones, and it all is more and more beautiful the more I think about it.
The Passage of Time
The sight and sound of water in the Japanese garden has an even deeper meaning. It has to do with the passage of time. The more you learn, the more you realize for example, that a bridge crossing the water in a Japanese garden, is not just a bridge crossing the water. It is rather a pathway, and is representative of one's journey. The word for bridge is hashi, and is also the word for "edge." So a bridge is symbolic of moving from one world into another. This is a common theme seen in gardens and also in Japanese art.
The flow of water, and the passage of time, are things I will think about when I see Japanese gardens in the future. It really is like art, and to me, gardeners are artists. The photos here of fountains are from the Japanese garden in Missouri. The bridge there is one of my favorite places. Now, it means even more to me.