Japanese Backyard Design – Dry Water

Dry water is very common in Japanese gardens, and it may be very eye catching too. Wait a minute, I can hear you questioning the time period ‘dry water’- it’s a contradiction in terms is not it? Well, YES and NO! And it’s the NO part I am going to concentrate on in this small article. But let me make clear the principles of water sources and features in these particular types of gardens.

Water sources in these types of gardens ought to appear as natural as doable and mix in with the surroundings. Fountains do not exists in Japanese gardens, waterfalls yes, however fountains no. They are man made and never ‘natural’ in appearance. Don’t get me wrong I am not ‘fountainist’ it’s just with Japanese gardens there are specific rules that need to be observed. For those who really needed a fountain in a Japanese garden, it’s not a heinous crime however your garden wouldn’t be wholly authentic!

Streams- almost always man-made are a big part of Japanese gardening, they usually are constructed with curves giving them a more natural appearance. The positioning of lanterns is more often than not by streams or ponds within a garden. This represents the female and the male parts of ‘water’ and ‘fire’.

This idea is known in Japanese tradition as YIN and YANG. Any stream in a Japanese garden will have deliberate imperfections designed into it, in order to provide the ‘water’ a ‘natural’ look and an natural feel. The shapes of ponds should also look natural for this reason as well.

Water is never positioned within the centre of the backyard- particularly ponds. these will typically have larger stones within them to simulate islands. Typically it is frequent for them to have a smallish waterfall. The usage of stones is always very structural and symmetrical. This also applies to the all sorts of oriental gardens.

OK, that’s the wet stuff out of the way. Let’s move onto the concept and utilization of ‘Dry Water’ in Zen gardens. In Zen gardens it is pretty straight forward- sand is used to copy water and this makes smaller landscape reproductions far easier. A Zen backyard will more often than not show a miniature panorama with mounds for mountains and sand to depict water. The sand is raked to offer it’s ‘watery’ appearance and could be raked in different types over and over again.

In Japanese gardens ‘Dry water’ is featured more usually than not in ‘Karesansui’ gardens. It’s one of the crucial common types you’ll be able to visit or try and design and build and in the English language it means ‘Dry mountain stream’. These types of Japanese gardens are know simply as ‘Dry’ gardens and are heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism. They are peaceable, simple and waterless- rocks are used to symbolise land masses and the ‘Dry water’ -or- SAND/GRAVEL is raked to make it look like the ocean or a large body of water. Brilliantly clever and with that means too.

Many hundreds of years ago this type of backyard was built by ‘Senzui Kawarami’ in a easy English translation this means ‘Mountain, Stream and Riverbed individuals’. They were master craftsmen by trade and vocation and specialised in building these stunning Zen influenced gardens. It’s typically accepted by Scholars that these types of gardens design originated in China as does a good deal of Japanese backyard history and influences. However that’s one other story…

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