Japanese symbolism for garden design is briefly explained.
There has been a lot of controversy about this Japanese garden design concept.
Find out more about both sides of the story on symbolism in Japanese gardens.
The main object of Japanese gardens
is to copy the beauty of nature and to bring it back home.
There is very little space in Japan. It is not always possible for the average Japanese family to have a large garden.
They adapted it to be able to enjoy nature.
This adaptation is most obvious in the art of Bonsai trees.
This is the art of cultivating small miniature trees. Although their garden is small, it can still have a beautiful tree in it!
The inventive Japanese have made used of other natural materials to represent the objects
that would just be too large for their gardens.
This practice most probably led to the mystique of Japanese symbolism in their gardening.
One viewpoint is that symbolism has really been blown out of proportion and it detracts from the main object of Japanese gardens,
i.e. to copy the beauty of nature itself.
Every culture does have their symbols, myths, urban legends, etc. Some people will believe in it, others don’t.
A little bit of symbolism can be healthy, e.g. the Stripes and Stars will symbolize liberty and freedom to patriotic Americans,
the sun represented god, unified the ancient Egyptians, etc.
Symbolism is often used in Japanese garden design
Just remember that you should never try to symbolize everything in your garden. This will detract from the purpose of your garden.
Make use symbolism in moderation, and enjoy your garden.
The following table contains some common Oriental and Japanese symbols and their meaning:
The Symbolic Meaning of Plants and Items
|Japanese Flowering Cherry
||Celebrates the change of seasons
||Welcomes Autumn as a friend
|Pond in shape of tortoise
||1 of 3 Mythical Islands, a guarantee of prosperity
|A line of rocks
||A line of boats sailing toward the Isles of the Immortals
|Shumisen – 1 Central rock
||Central pillar that supports the heavens
||The Buddist Trinity
|Island in pond
||Paradise – land of paradise
|Guzei – Red bridge
||Route blessed to take to salvation
||Bridge split to prevent the evil spirits from crossing (evil spirits are believed to only move in straight lines)
||Assertive, hard, uncompromising (Yang)
||Intellectual force, softness of water associated with feelings (Yin)
|Wooden terrace jutting over picturesque garden
||Constant need to be with nature
Straight lines – calm water
Curved lines - waves
|Upturned roof edges
||The giant wings of the Phoenix in full flight
Phoenix – symbolic of rebirth