Karesansui (dry landscape) (枯山水)

Karesansui (dry landscape) is a style of Japanese garden or Japanese painting.

Since a dry landscape is a waterless garden, there are no ponds or streams, rather it is a garden where landscape scenery is expressed with sand and stones, etc. For example, white sand and small stones are used to represent water, and a bridge is built over it to suggest that there is water below. Occasionally, the pattern on the surface of the stones also represents the flow of water.

This abstract expression of a garden was especially used and developed by the Zen sect temples of the Muromachi period. It was traditionally used as part of a design technique for a garden; some gardens of a mansion palace were partly dry landscaped, some excursion style gardens with an actual pond of a feudal lord's (daimyo) mansion, also included a dry landscape. However, after it was adopted by Zen temples, dry landscape were created as independent gardens. Although Japanese gardens had been built with water, with the emergence of the dry landscape garden style, it became unnecessary to have water in a garden.

Gardens such as those inside Seihou-ji Temple (the south garden has a path around a pond with a fountain, the north garden has a dry landscape) and Daitoku-ji Temple are famous. In particular, the rock garden in Ryoan-ji Temple does not use any plants and it is surrounded by a fence and uses only white sand and 15 stone configurations, that have been various theories on the interpretation of this design. The design is such that no matter from which angle you view the garden, you can see only 14 stones.

The above are dry landscape gardens based upon a bed of sand, however, there are also some dry landscapes called "the style of a dry land (kochi-shiki)," that use only stone configurations, and an example is the Anyoin-teiken Garden of Taisan-ji Temple (Kobe City).

A general theory by Matsu YOSHIKAWA
The style of a Japanese garden is classified into three types; a pond garden with small artificial hills (pond fountain garden), a garden with dry landscape, and tea garden (garden outside a ceremonial tearoom).

The 'Island' built by SOGA no Umako at the banks of the Asuka-gawa River, around AD 628 when Empress Suiko had ruled for 28 years, was the oldest Japanese garden on record, and it seems that the style was followed in building Prince Kusakabe's dwelling 'Island Palace,' which enjoys a natural scenery arranged with an island in a pond, bridge, a pond beach and a rough shoreline. However, in the Nara period, the garden at East Palace of Heijo Imperial Palace has seascape scenery, streams, etc. expressed with stones.

During the Heian period, the Shinsen-en Garden and the imperial villas in Kyoto's suburbs have wide ponds, however, Japanese gardens had so far adopted a style based on landscapes representing natural scenery including actual water. The garden builders were monks, called 'stone arranging monks' (ishitate-so) in the late Heian period.

When the Zen monks were building these gardens in the backyards inside large Buddhist temples, the thought of Zen Buddhism, art, and culture from the Asian Continent, were introduced together with the tradition of Japanese gardens.

Moreover, when Buddhist temples were built in a city where the water supply was not adequate, garden making became consolidated with the well developed characteristic dry landscape style.
Thus, this idealization of scenery, the basis of landscape gardening in Japan, gave birth to sharp expressions of 'dry landscape.'

When thoroughly investigated the abstract representations of natural features such as mountains, rivers, and waterfalls, there may be one stone that represents a mountain, or scenery as a whole that represents the entire universe, so this is an abstract art similar to miniature landscapes on a tray, or a watery ink painting.

Strongly influenced from Soseki MUSO's concepts of garden design, Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA favored the landscape gardener Zenami over others. Suiin-ken House's (literally, "Shaded eaves for Sleeping") small garden, that Zenami made with a landscape painting style, was praised highly in the "Inryo-ken House Diary", however, technical developments of garden designs during the Muromachi period were greatly attributed to landscape gardeners.

Later, this was partially used in gardens of feudal lords (daimyos), however, abstraction aesthetics and art introduced from the West during the prewar days produced a posture that gropes for the abstract native art of Japan, and attention was focused from this perspective.

From the viewpoint of abstract art, Japan can boast about its garden design style to the world, that also contains a mysterious Oriental image that meets the expectations of what Western culture pursues, and it has become famous worldwide. The stoicism that decoration is abolished with unnecessary waste being cut out, is an idea that is in tune with the aesthetics of a modernistic view, that has become a garden style that represents Japan.

During the early Showa Period, aesthetics together with modernism were used for the garden designs by Mirei SHIGEMORI, in 1939, this was first used in the Hojo Garden (literally "Head monk's Garden") of Tofuku-ji Temple in Kyoto.

During the prewar days, Takuma TONO twice tried to introduce special issues in a journal of landscape gardening, after the war, for instance in 1959, Kenzo TANGE created a rock garden in the Kagawa Prefecture Public Office Building, and the sculptor Isamu NOGUCHI also created a garden inside the Paris UNESCO Hall from 1956 to 1959, a courtyard inside the Chase Manhattan Bank from 1961 to 1964, California Scenario and others using the dry landscape style.

Similarly, from the hands of sculptor Masayuki NAGARE, the replica garden in Ryoan-ji Temple was made to resemble New York's Brooklyn Botanic Garden, moreover, Taro OKAMOTO also mentioned Ryoan-ji Temple, Saramon (Sand Ripples) of Ginkaku-ji Temple and Koin-zan Mountain of Saihou-ji Temple in his book "Nihon-no-Dento" (Tradition of Japan, 1956, Kobunsha Publishing).

It can be inferred that, in recent years, gardens with sand ripples designed by Peter Walker inside Harima Science Garden City and Center for Advanced Science and Technology were inspired by such influence.

Meaning of words
Karesansui (dry landscape)
The term 'karesansui (dry landscape)' first appeared as a term in garden design in "Sakuteiki" (Garden Design Recording) (also called "Senzaihisho" (The Secret Excerpt of Gardening)), however, according to the afterword of "Gunshoruiju" edited by FUJIWARA no Yorimichi and TACHIBANA no Toshitsuna, the term first appeared in Yoshitsune KUJO (also called Yoshitsune KYOGOKU).
The pronunciation of the Kanji characters were not attached, therefore in Sutemi HORIGUCHI's opinion, it should be read as 'karesenzui.'
It is thought that 'karesansui' written here refers to the style of how to put the stones or ornamental garden rocks in the corner of a garden, which is called 'the Heian period style of dry landscape' or 'the early style of dry landscape' as to distinguish it from the 'Hiraniwa karesansui' (a style of dry landscape in a flat Japanese garden without hills), at the same time, there is the opinion that there is no need to distinguish them because they are all the same style.

There is a viewpoint that the garden in Sanjo-in (the Sanjo Imperial House) as written in the paragraph of year 1026 of "Eiga monogatari" (The Tale of Eiga) volume 12 is a present day 'dry landscape garden.'

Kansansui (dry landscape)
In "Genpeiseisui-ki" (the rise and fall record of the Genji and Heike clans' volume 25), the terms 'Kansansui (dry landscape)' and 'Kansensui (dry landscape)' were written there. This was a word thought to refer to something like bonsai (dwarfed tree in a pot), different from what 'karesansui' refers to nowadays; for example, it may have become the origin of the garden style of miniature landscapes on a tray like the rock garden of Ryoan-ji Temple, however, the connection is not understood.

Karasansui (Chinese style of landscaping)
Because it was introduced from China during the Tang Dynasty, it should be called, 'Karasansui (Tang Dynasty landscape)' and the kanji characters were inferred. Since the garden style of China was adopted, it was named as such. However, the origin of the determined kanji characters is not understood. In the chapter November 9, 1446 of "Gaun nikken-roku" (the Diary of Zuikei SHUHO of Shokoku-ji Temple, the Gaun Mountain person), it was written that rice-cake sweets without water added, eaten by the Chinese barbarians are called Tang's hill and water, however, the relationship to 'karasansui' is not well understood.

Furusensui (dry landscape)
In "oraimono" (primary textbooks in the style of corresponding letters), there was a description of 'karesansui (dry landscape)' with furigana (attached Japanese syllabary) of 'furusensui.'

Karemizugata (waterless shape)
In 1743 (or 1735) "Chikuyama-teizo-den" (Records on artificial hill gardening), which is said to be the origin of "Chikuyama-sansui-den" (Records on artificial hill and water), there was a description of 'karemizugata (waterless shape).'
It is thought to be mean what we called karesansui nowadays.

Karasenzui (dry landscape)
In "Niwatsukuri-fushin-sho" (question book of garden design), which was handed down on the Island of Ishigaki, written around 1800, 'karasenzui' was written. This word refers to artificial hill landscape or seascape where water is not used, thus it is thought to refer to the same thing that we call karesansui (dry landscape) nowadays. This is a book written without any relationship to the natural environment of Okinawa, and Yoshikawa suggests that this term was spread to Okinawa at that time.
In addition, Yoshikawa shows interest as to why it was not called 'Sora (Empty)' or 'Kara (Tang)' but 'Kara.'

Kosensui (dry landscape)
In the 1830's "Kiyu-tenran" (a joyful Imperial inspection), it was written that dry landscape is not pronounced as 'furusensui' or 'karasensui' but should be pronounced as 'kosensui.'

In "Enrinsosho" (library of garden forestry) and "Meiji teien-ki" (record of gardens of the Meiji Period) of the Meiji Period and the Taisho Period, the Japanese syllabary of dry landscape garden was written as 'karasensui'; Yoshikawa considers 'karesansui' this pronunciation is comparatively new.

[Original Japanese]