The vibrant garden, the plain garden

Adachi Museum of Art and Ryōan-ji





I had a sudden crave for viewing gardens. Sitting on a bench in a temple or art gallery are some immediate ways one can effortlessly appreciate the beauty of them. Some gardens offer more vibrant sceneries that provide a view of flowers, trees, mosses, small bridges, flowing water and stone lanterns; while some others offer a rather plain view with only a few pieces of stone and some pebbles.

In the garden of Adachi Museum of Art in Shimane Prefecture, I have come across the most vibrant scenery being offered. The garden is merely for appreciation through a glass wall as visitors are not allowed to walk inside. Patches of grass of different heights create a splendid picture when pairing up with the mountain range of Tottori in the background. In between the ball-shaped scrubs lie pieces of baroque stone forms. Even the boundary between the grass patches and sand dunes is lined carefully to form a beautiful and sleek curve. These carefully carved sceneries are never part of nature. Adachi Museum of Art offers different admirable views that change along with seasons. Although I only had the luck to see the early summer view in my last visit, I can already imagine how much effort is required to maintain the beautiful sceneries for all four seasons.

Quite an opposite to Adachi Museum of Art, Ryōan-ji in Kyoto offers the plainest stone garden. In the mini garden of dimension 25 m by 10 m contains as few as just 15 pieces of stone; rumor says there is always one piece of stone being hidden from sight, therefore visitors can only see 14 pieces of stone from any angle. I have never verified this curious myth, but the garden itself is already enough to enchant me. At the back of the garden is a low wall; from behind the low wall, trees climb above the wall and become part of the stone garden. The wall is at the same time a boundary and one of the elements of the stone garden. Is that river or ocean dissected by the 15 pieces of stone? The stones sometimes appear like mountains or islands, or are they simply pieces of stone? Are there trees on top of the mountains or the islands? Do birds rest here? The tiny garden has an enormous depth, hidden behind the emptiness is a scenery not to be seen with eyes.

Adachi Museum of Art and Ryōan-ji, which has a vibrant garden, which has a plain garden? This is a question yet to be answered.