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Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens: Design Principles, Aesthetic Values [Paperback]

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Item description for Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens: Design Principles, Aesthetic Values by David A. Slawson...

The art of the Japanese garden is a 1,500-year-old landscape design tradition that is still evolving, still instructive. Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens explains the fundamental principles of this tradition and describes how those principles may be applied to a much wider range of environments than exists in Japan.
In the first section the author draws on his own experience as an apprentice to a master gardener in Kyoto, as well as his considerable knowledge of Japanese classical texts, to present the garden design process in terms of three primary aesthetic considerations:
Scenic effects-reproductions of appealing natural landscape forms.
Sensory effects-varieties of scale, framing, rhythm, motion, and spatial quality.
Cultural effects-the incorporation of allusions to classical literature, poetry, and painting.
The final section comprises a complete translation of a classic gardening manual used by Buddhist monks in medieval Japan. Its rules for planting trees and setting rocks still make good design sense today, and the author includes numerous garden descriptions as examples of how ancient masters practiced their craft.
This clear, authoritative work, fully illustrated with diagrams and photographs, elucidates much about the Japanese compositional sense. But at the same time it is a plea for a more holistic approach to landscape design-a recognition that a garden should conform to certain natural principles as well as meet the emotional needs of those who view it.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   220
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.25" Width: 7" Height: 10"
Weight:   1.3 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 15, 1991
Publisher   Kodansha International
ISBN  4770015410  
ISBN13  9784770015419  

Availability  0 units.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Asia > Japan
2Books > Subjects > Home & Garden > Gardening & Horticulture > Garden Design
3Books > Subjects > Home & Garden > Gardening & Horticulture > General
4Books > Subjects > Home & Garden > Gardening & Horticulture > Japanese Gardens
5Books > Subjects > Home & Garden > Gardening & Horticulture > Landscape
6Books > Subjects > Professional & Technical > Architecture > Landscape

Reviews - What do customers think about Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens: Design Principles, Aesthetic Values?

The Best Book on Japanese Garden Design Theory  Jul 26, 2005
I first found this book over twenty years ago and have not found another that comes close to giving the reader as comprehensive an understanding of Japanese garden design. At first, I read the book from cover to cover. However, because of its depth it is best to re-read the book (the second and all subsequent times) in sections. A more thorough and complete understanding is achieved.

It is true that this book is not an easy read. However, it has always been an enjoyable and enlightened one.
Too dense!  Oct 11, 2002
This book is too dense for my needs. If you need to read liquid platinum about Japanese gardens, go for this book. If you need a quicker hitter, go elsewhere.
An invaluable and in-depth resource  Feb 8, 2000
I have, over the years, collected a number of books on the art of Japanese Gardens. Most rely on glossy photos and provide very little written content on the complexities of Japanese garden composition. What sets this work apart is its depth and focus on unraveling the underlying design principles and its intent on providing a deeper understanding into the art of Japanese gardening. If you were looking for a purely visual reference I would advise you not purchase this book. If however you were searching for a scholarly study in the design aesthetics of Japanese gardens, I would give this book my strongest recommendation. Slawson begins with his experiences as a master gardener's apprentice in Japan and ends with a full translation of an ancient gardening manual used by Buddhist monks. Each page overflows with background, details and inspiration. He urges and inspires you not to transplant an existing garden design, but gives the reader the foundation to evolve a plan reflective of your own individual location and taste. By clearly dissecting the aesthetic principal behind Japanese garden design, the book succeeds in creating a truly inspirational guide. Have a highlighter and note pad ready from the first page of the acknowledgements to the comprehensive bibliography.
Inspiration and perspiration for an aspiring garden designer  Jan 14, 2000
Of all the books we consulted, read, and reread before we began to design and create our own Japanese-style garden -- really, just a small front yard of a rowhouse on a pretty street on Capitol Hill -- Slawson's book was the most useful. Why? Not because it's easy reading! Understanding what the author is trying to say requires careful and slow reading (and rereading) of almost every sentence. It's effort well spent! Unlike so many pretty-picture books about Japanese garden design, which amaze the reader with their photos but leave him/her dumbfounded as to how one would go about designing a garden from scratch (as opposed to merely copying some handsome garden pictured on one of the book's pages!), Slawson's book unlocks -- to the persistent reader -- the fundamentals (secrets, if you insist) of what makes a garden Japanese. As the preceding reviewer already pointed out, this essentially boils down to being able to express one's own experience and impression of nature. Once you're at this stage, the selection of rocks and other materials and their harmonious placement in the space at hand, is almost a piece of cake. (OK, it's still a lot of work to implement one's design, but at least you know what you're supposed to be doing!)

In case you're wondering about the outcome of our design effort: we've gotten lots of praise from neighbors and from total strangers, from American and from Japanese friends, for our little Japanese-style rock garden. And everybody who looks at our front yard gets what we were trying to express artistically! I have no doubts that we could never had this type of success without having had access to Slawson's remarkable book.

Excellent resource. Requires re-reading & note taking.  Jan 21, 1999
I purchased the hardcover of this book in 1988. I read it cover to cover immediately. I used the rock setting techniques described by Slawson "hands on" in my landscape contracting business in Boulder, CO. I found it immensely useful.

A number of years passed, nearly four of them spent in graduate architecture school studying formal geometries, history, architecture as a verb.....architecture with a great big capital A.

Yet, I did not fully appreciate the book until recently. I dusted it off when I was hired to set 2 semi-truck loads of stones. I reviewed it and found that my studies from it ten years earlier had indeed made an indelible impression upon me. The seemingly daunting task of composing 50 tons of boulders in an aesthetically pleasing manner was made much easier thanks to Slawson's studies. His book was more useful than 3 1/2 years of architecture school. Believe me, read it and get your hands dirty. Work with big stones, the dirt. It is the real work.

You will likely find the book "thick" in the sense that at times, each sentence is filled with succinct words. You may find yourself re-reading sentences to understand. Better graphic descriptions could have helped here. In particular the sections comparing Arnheims "Art and Visual Perception" with compositional arrangements, proportions and general japanese garden aesthetics are excellent. It is in these sections where one begins to understand how intelligent japanese garden design is. It fully engages the haptic sense as well as one's psychology.

Slawson makes many important notes and observations about the making of Japanese gardens. Yet he also points out that Japanese gardens evolved in Japan because of particular conditions of culture and nature. He points out that the teachings would not necessarily recomend "copying" these teachings in other region with climates different than those of Japan.

Slawson gives us an excellent resource to consider Japanese "teachings" in composing gardens, for example, in the desert southwest (USA). A garden influenced by the desert southwest would simply not fit in Japan. Yet, if you make the "teachings" your own you could create a japanese influenced garden.

Similarly, many Japanese garden copies in America don't fit. With the exception of the Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon.

I recomend the book because I continue to turn to it year after year. The sign for me of a valuable book.

Patrick Healy


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