The first 339 words from
Gardens of Gravel and Sand

“All the photographs in this book, various configurations and treatments of gravel and sand, were taken during May 1999 in Kyoto, Japan. Many of the photographs were shot at formal 'dry landscape'—kare-san-sui—gardens located on the grounds of Zen Buddhist temples or former samurai villas now under Zen Buddhist caretaking. Others were documented at either non-Zen Buddhist temples or Shinto shrines. None of the photographs, however, is intended to be visually descriptive of the particular place in toto where it was taken. The non-specificity of the locations—almost as if the photographs could have been taken anyplace—is intended to limit distraction from our subject matter: gardens of gravel and sand.

“The inclusion of trees and shrubs, which are often seen just adjacent to the gravel or sand, was also avoided in the picture taking whenever possible. Plant materials represent a dynamic of Nature wherein things grow effortlessly of their own accord. The making of gardens of gravel and sand, conversely, represents a conscious attempt to not let Nature blithely proceed as it will. A well-maintained gravel or sand garden demands constant opposition to Nature’s tendencies with regular cleaning, weeding, raking, and/or re-forming.

“Finally, rocks, too, were avoided, although often this was not possible. Rocks are the 'celebrity' features of many Japanese  gardens. They are prominently positioned everywhere. They are fawned over and sometimes even given individual names. Hence the adoring English sobriquet, 'Japanese rock garden.' But these same cherished rocks also cause many people to overlook the 'lowly' gravel and sand—or to dismiss it as mere background   to the rocks’ exalted 'figure' status.

“By severely reducing these extraneous and/or antagonistic visual and conceptual elements, what have we lost? We’ve thrown away predictable images of idealized Japanese gardens. We’ve jettisoned obsessive emphasis on 'profound connoisseurship,' 'extraordinary sensitivity,' or highly specialized skill in garden design and construction. And we’ve obliterated at least 1,500 years of Chinese and Japanese garden history, hazy at best, virtually none of which is devoted to the gravel and sand anyway...”

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