The two gardens of Shisen-do in Kyoto and Jiko-m near Nara are closely related to academic Chinese bunjin painting. This bunjm tradition is similarly reflected in a secret garden text composed in 1680 by the print-maker and man of letters Hishikawa Morono-bu, entitled Yokei tsukuri niwa nozu, "Garden Drawings for the Creation of Specific Views". In this single volume he suggests eighteen ways of creating gardens having particular atmospheres, in double-page illustrations employing the sophisticated drawing techniques of the day. At the top of each illustration he describes the scenic ingredients necessary to create the garden in question - whether famous sights in China or Japan, seasonal scenery or poetic lore and thereby falls fully in line with the secret oral traditions of Japanese garden art.
By the second half of the Edo era, gardens were no longer the exclusive privilege of daimyo nobles and samurai warriors but became equally the domain of the chonin, the townspeople. Thus the demand grew for experienced gardeners, and particularly for those in possession of kuden, highly-prized oral transmissions of the secrets of garden design. This new breed of professionals, called niwa-shi, or "garden masters", now supplied the townspeople not only with the artistic designs for their gardens, but also with the materials and decorative elements required in their construction, such as rocks, trees and stone lanterns. Even the niwa-shi,
"A garden scenery to remind one of spring." The garden's mam features are a wisteria-draped pergola near the water's edge and a few pines in the background An illustration from Hishikawa Moronobu's "Yokei tsukuri niwa no zu" of 1680
however, proved unable to match the rising demand for gardening expertise; another solution had to be found. This was to take the form of a new branch of literature - practical garden manuals which could be sold cheaply and in large quantities thanks to the newly-developed techniques of woodcut printing.
The results were not altogether satisfactory. Such manuals destroyed the spirit of individual creativity and innovation in garden art and led to general artistic stagnation. By describing garden architecture in terms of rigid stylistic categories, they inevitably encouraged the same fixity in reality, too. Perhaps the most widely-read "do-it-yourself" manual of this type was Enkin Kitamura's Tsukiyama teizo-den, "Transmission of Making Mountains and Creating Gardens", written in 1735. In addition to practical advice on how to create garden scenery, it devotes an entire section to woodcuts of famous gardens of old, such as the Golden Pavilion and Daisen-in. A second volume was published in 1828 by Ritoken Akisato under the same title, and the two were subsequently sold as a set. Akisato carries the strict classification of gardens and their components even further than his predecessors: everything in the book is now discussed in terms of standardized types. Although beautifully illustrated, these books reflect less the creative spirit of the niwa-shi, the professional garden masters, than the commercial spirit of the ueki-ya gardening businesses.
This trend towards oversimplification in garden art is typically demonstrated in the distinction introduced between the flat and the hilly garden. Having settled for one or the other, the would-be garden-maker then faces a further choice of three possible styles, each differing in the elaboration of its details. Using the Muro-machi terms derived originally from the Sino-Japanese art of calligraphy and subsequently applied to other arts, these three styles are entitled shin, highly formal, gyo, semi-formal, and so, informal or simplified. Such distinctions between flat and hilly, between formal, semi-formal and informal, imply a progressive reduction in the number of compositional elements used within a garden and an increasing informality in its overall design. But whether this was simply a standard design practice inherited from earlier times, or whether it was indeed the result of literary simplifications in the Edo era, must remain in question.
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