Garden for Salvation – Cosmology in Japanese Gardens

One of the reasons why people build gardens is to materialize their images of heaven. Good examples are seen in Japanese gardens and other gardens in the world. Historically, since Buddhism has influenced Japanese culture throughout history, the image of heaven in many Japanese gardens is defined by Buddhist cosmology.16photo0214_1

“Nine Mountains and Eight Oceans” is a part of the cosmology of Buddhism. It is believed that the world is made of Nine concentric rings-like mountains of various heights and the eight oceans in-between mountains. Then, the center mountain, which is called Syumisen or Syumi Mountain, is where Buddha resides. I think that this Syumisen is the heaven that many people imagine.

The current garden at Reiun-In (霊雲院) at Tofukuji temple (東福寺) was designed by Mirei Shigemori, a Japanese garden designer and historian, in 1970’s. It seems to me that this garden tries to express the image of Nine Mountains and Eight Oceans which was illustrated in some old books like Wakan Sansai Zue, an encyclopedia published in early 18th century.

Human being is tiny existence in the universe. And dying means one’s returning to the universe. If people can imagine the shape of the universe, dying might not be a dreadful thing. This is why people wanted to create their images of the universe in their gardens. (T)