Japanese Garden of Contemplation

Serene, carefully manicured traditional Japanese gardens were designed for peaceful refuge.

The example at Hamilton Gardens displays the understated simplicity of that tradition which favoured highly abstract, monochromatic interpretation of a natural landscapes.

The karesansui (dry landscape) gardens of the Muromachi era of Japanese history are amongst the most austere garden designs ever created. Within tightly bounded compositions of gravel, rocks, and only the minimum of vegetation, they evoke vast landscapes of mountains, oceans, and forests – although the final interpretation of the arrangement is always up to the individual viewer.

These dry landscape gardens are often called ‘Zen gardens’ because the most renowned examples are found in Zen temple complexes in Japan. However, while their underlying design does use Zen Buddhist concepts of ‘the void’, ‘movement without movement’, the deep sense of contemplation that they produce in the viewer goes beyond any particular religion and can be enjoyed by everybody.

The Scroll Garden, on the other side of the Abbot’s Quarters, shares some features with the karesansui. Both gardens are designed to be enjoyed from a single perspective. Both gardens create a miniature version of a vast landscape with year-round interest and create a feeling of peace and serenity.