Tsukiyama and stone setting

Tsukiyama or the older term kasan refers to a (artificial or man-made) hill garden. The hills can be viewed from various vantage points as you stroll along the garden paths, and can sometimes even be climbed to enjoy a view of the garden.
In Tsubo-en the scale of the hills and mountains is much smaller and often created with shrubs. Perhaps best viewed from within the house, framed by the doorway and window frames or from low vantage points, e.g. sitting on the veranda, not on a chair but gross-legged or kneels
We will call those "higher" garden "grounds" (above 0 on the map below): tsukiyama.
That is why in the Overview chapter we stated ... "we make moderate use of tsukiyama landscape elements".




In the Overview chapter we stated:
The Tsjubo-en garden can be typified as a "Kyõto (karesansui) style" garden. These then are divided into two groups, one of which classifies as the more abstract type. Here abstraction is used to compose a scenic, [1] flat (hiro niwa) garden that incorporates the principle of "yohaku no bi " 7: the beauty of empty space [2, 5] and moderate use of tsukiyama, landscape elements (artificial hills).
And: ... where stone and shaped shrubs (karikomi) are used interchangeable.



To further enhance the level of abstraction we decided to keep the shoreline (coastline ?), that is the transition from the Ginshanada "sea" to Tsukiyama "land" or from gravel to ground cover, sharp and crisp as though it was painted with a single brush stroke. To further intensify the three-dimensional impressionistic effect, there is a clear difference in level of sea and land throughout the garden. The land itself has a transition area that is relatively large and forms a continuation of the open space prior to converging into the imaginary hill and mountains. To strengthen the impression that this is a transition we have placed scattered "hillocks" realized with low karikomi and hako-zukuri. An exception to this is the main O-karikomi (see below) that abruptly arises from the Ginshanada without transition.
The result of all this is a strong expressionistic, even surrealistic rather than natural scenic experience.

Placing the above in the context of Japanese garden design based on the three-dimensional monochrome ink (sumi) landscape painting, sumi-e or suibokuga, and the principle of the prescribed separation of the vista into three tiers or planes, would imply that the Ginshanada sea represents the first tier (hence the visible ripples on the "water"), on a human scale, the second tier on architectural scale is the middle tsukiyama area and the third tier, on a geologic scale is represented by the larger karikomi, Mount Sumeru, symbolized by the upright heavy rock (see below), the backdrop boundary hedgerows and the "borrowed scenery".


At the right site, the back and in front of the house we have the Ginshanada (silver sand open sea) with in the back right corner (North), as shown on the ground plan below, the main O-karikomi (D) combined with Hako-zukuri.
See: The main O-karikomi for a description.


groundplan


On the above plan we have indicated the tsukiyama ground-heights of the whole garden. The Ginshanada gravel is our reference, level "0". The actual "visual heights" very much depend on the ground cover and planting. Even in area´s where the same ground covering plants are used there can be a difference in growing height of as much as 5 centimeter (2 inch). This is the case with the Leptinella potentillina (prev. Cotula) that is used in section A, C and G. The Chamaemelum nobile "Treneaguei" (Anthemis nobilis) (Dutch: Loopkamille) used in section E can get as high as 15 cm (6").

The next slide show gives an impression how this looks from a low viewpoint. It shows 14 photo´s, 4 seconds each.

Tsukiyama slides



Elements suggestive of hillocks, hills or mountains can be composed and constructed of any of four objects:

  1. Stone and rock
    In order to comprehend the beauty of a Japanese garden, it is necessary to understand, or at least to learn to understand, the beauty of stone.
    Lafcadio Hearn

    Although the terms are mostly used interchangeably, the word "rock'" is better used for a stone in nature or in a quarry that has not yet been selected or chosen. Rocks that are a natural part of the garden ground remain rocks. When a rock has been selected then it is termed "stone". So in principle every rock in Tsubo-en is a stone, as we to use the terms interchangeably. In the Netherlands we have no mountains and only one official hill composed of sandstone. Stone are mostly associated with rounded shapes, boulders and pebble. A rough, marked and preferably sabi (and wabi) stone that can represent a mountain in a garden is mostly termed a rock, or in Dutch "rotsblok". Translation of the latter into English gives "boulder", what is not at all a "rotsblok". Translating this back from English into Dutch is again different.
    In the Tsubo-en tsukiyama and garden as a whole, we have few stone and stone arrangements ( ishigumi) as visible object or element, some of these few show however a prominent presence.
  2. Evergreen ground covering plants
    Ground covers give shape to flat land and slopes or islands and form the connecting element between water and mountains. Mosses form the ground cover of preference in Japanese gardens.
    Purely for practical reasons, in Tsubo-en we have only very limited application of moss. We have taken a long time to select plausible alternatives and even then we needed to replace some of the carefully considered and selected specimen.
  3. Evergreen shrubs and bush
    Most prominent for the purpose of karikomi and hako-zukuri land-scaping in Japan are flowering evergreens like camellia's, specifically the tsubaki and sazanka, rhododendron and azalea (satsuki).
    Again due to feasibility and practical usability we had to select alternatives. The most important factors are speed of growth, hardiness that is the chance to survive winters, soil and climate conditions.
    In Tsubo-en these shrubs are mostly used as part of the tsukiyama landscape.
  4. Evergreen trees
    In Tsubo-en evergreen trees are only by exception used as integral part of the tsukiyama landscape as such but more as solitary trees to magnify the experience and beauty of the overall landscape in the garden. We have a few magnificent exceptions though in the form of small pine trees.
    Not all trees are evergreen. We also have a few deciduous trees. These can however not be used to represent hills our mountains, they very much are incorporated to show seasonal changes, hence the title of this item.

Tsukiyama examples

This section shows a selection of fine authentic examples that all originate from Japan. These examples show how design principles and rules are applied and interpreted and how and what materials are used in genuine Japanese gardens. These examples should be of help and inspiration during realization of your own Japanese garden.

Part of these photos is from our own trips others have been collected from different sources, including but not limited to the Internet. New examples will be frequently added.

Note: The examples will only display correctly after the page has fully loaded !
It is not an exact-science to draw the line between garden-elements to distinguish between elements such as tsukiyama, ginshanada, (O-) karikomi, hako-zukuri, stone-settings, islands, borrowed-scenery and so on. Under each subject, or better subject-area, we try to show examples with focus on the main subject. Often an example will be in a context with other elements.
Obai-in garden, a subtemple of Daitokuji Temple in Kyoto, Kansai Region.   Zuiho-in, Kyoto.   The southern garden of Hojo in Tofuku-ji. At the west end of the garden are moss covered low tsukiyama.   Close-up. The southern garden of Hojo in Tofuku-ji. At the west end of the garden are moss covered low tsukiyama.   Tsukiyama in the foreground and hako-zukuri shape pruned shrubs as island in the ocean, in the back.
 The western garden of Hojo at Tofuku-ji, that is called Seiden-Ichimatsu.   Tofuku-ji. The northern garden of Hojo in autumn.   Nanzen-ji, Kyoto.
 The rock garden that was designed by Kobori Enshu. 
 The Hojo building that has an excellent fusuma-e paintings in it of Bodhidharma in red.   Konchi-in is a subtemple of Nanzen-ji, Kyoto. One of the principal Zen temples of Japan.   Komyozen-ji, Fukuoka. This garden by Mirei Shigemori.   In Chiran, in the Fumoto district, there is a street of old samurai residences and gardens built in the 
later part of the Edo Period that are steeped in the atmosphere of the age. 
Seven of these gardens have been designated by the national government as places of scenic beauty.   Old Samurai Residences and Gardens in Chiran.   Old Samurai Residences and Gardens in Chiran.
Since many of the houses are still occupied, you can't see inside, 
but the main interest lies in their small but intricate gardens, some said to be the work of designers 
brought from Kyoto. Seven gardens, indicated by signs in English, are open to the public. 
Though each is different in its composition, they mostly use rock groupings and shrubs to represent a 
classic scene of mountains, valleys and waterfalls taken from Chinese landscape painting. In the best of them, 
such as the gardens of Hirayama Soyo and Hirayama Ryoichi, the design also incorporates the hills behind 
as "borrowed scenery".   Tsukiyama close-up of "Mount Fuji" in Joju-en, Suizen-ji, Kumamoto, Kyushu.   To-ji in Kyoto   The temple Rozan-ji in Kyoto   The subtemple Korin-in in Daitoku-ji in Kyoto   Entsu-ji at Matsushima in Tohoku   The Suizen-ji garden in Kyushu. As "tsukiyama" as it can get.   Hirayama Katsumi samurai garden - Chiran in Kyushu

The "land" is closely related to the "sea", "ocean" or other (dry) "water" surfaces hence these should be viewed within that context. Also see: Gravel and raking examples. Tsukuyama hills can however also be represented by bushes and should thus be viewed in combination with Karikomi and hako-zukuri topiary examples.

For some unique examples of karesansui garden landscapes see: Samurai residence gardens.



Stone and rock: Mount Sumeru stone setting

In the garden book Sakuteiki 5 "Creating a garden" is expressed as "setting stones", ishi wo taten koto; literally, the "act of setting stones upright." At the time the Sakuteiki was written, the placement of stones was perceived as the primary act of gardening. Similar expressions are also used in the text, however, to mean literally "setting garden stones" rather than "creating gardens".
Make sure that all the stones, right down to the front of the arrangement, are placed with their best sides showing. If a stone has an ugly-looking top you should place it so as to give prominence to its side. Even if this means it has to lean at a considerable angle, no one will notice. There should always be more horizontal than vertical stones. If there are "running away" stones there must be "chasing" stones. If there are "leaning" stones, there must be "supporting" stones.
And note again that in many cases stone and shaped shrubs (karikomi) can be used interchangeably.

Mount Sumeru or Shumi-sen ( 須弥山 or しゅみせん ), (Chinese: Xumishan) symbolized by the upright heavy rock is one of few stone arrangements, ishigumi, in Tsubo-en. This is the mountain at the center of the World in ancient Hindu-Buddhist cosmology. Its prominence is emphasized by some everlasting snow that seems to cover it and the Shitenno, the Four Heavenly Kings, that protect the four continents surrounding Mt. (Su) Meru.
2022 The stone is a type of marble from South-Africa, named "Namaqua", pseudonime "Jumaqua".

The stone itself is pure black and white, weights about 1000 kilogram (1 ton metric, 2204 lb) and rises 120 cm (4 feet) above the ground.

The skin colors are the result of moss and lichen.

The coloration is strongly influenced by rain.

For a season impression animation where Shumisen is encircled and covered by "layers of clouds" see: Deciduous trees, Wisteria sinensis.

We regard this stone as our, or better the Tsubo-en, "Iwakura" or "Iwasaku", a rock or "rock seat", venerated as divine. In Shinto it is thought to contain a kami at certain times of the year, or to be a link to the world of the gods. Although we are no Shintoists, we think this beautiful stone at this dedicated location is worthy to house a kami.
After three full days of work to move, lift, erect and turn this stone on the 17th of August 2008, we have already learned to treat it with respect.
2029 At the time of garden construction, early 1999 this stone was put on its flat side by a tower wagon. To not set it upright had two reasons, not being any of the taboos, imi or kinki, as written down in the Sakuteiki.
Marijke found it far to prominent. I could live with this compromise to at least have this magnificent stone in the garden, and to better fit with the proportions of the planting at the time.

As you see in the above comment this more and more continued to rankle.







Namaqua Marble

Namaqua marble sample


Today, ink monochrome painting still is the art form most closely associated with Zen Buddhism. A primary design principle was the creation of a landscape based on, or at least greatly influenced by, the three-dimensional monochrome ink (sumi) landscape painting, sumi-e or suibokuga. In Japan the garden has the same status as a work of art.

Interestingly after erecting this stone we discovered that it shows great resemblance to a Japanese monochrome ink landscape depicted in the book "Zen culture" [5]

2031 2031
We found this stone at a local stonecutter. At the time (1999) there where two of them. This was the larger one with the best shape and proportions for our purpose. They had been ordered by an artist who decided not to buy them after all. ...... this must be an omen.......

A Japanese monochrome ink landscape depicted in the book "Zen culture" [5]

This shows the second and third tier of the three dimensional painting technique.

Our Sumeru shows near resemblance with the mountain at the center-right. Not only the shape but also the coloration of black and white.
In the garden the clouds are formed by the blooming Wisteria sinensis(Fuji).

The backdrop boundary hedgerows and the "borrowed scenery" (by means of Shakkei ) are also part of the third tier.
2020
This is the first tier on the painting, the human scale. In Tsubo-en this is the Ginshanada and what lies in front of it as seen by the onlooker. 2017
The above Japanese monochrome ink landscape is probably a simplified version of this painting if the Fanghu isle.


Funghu         The Fanghu Isle of the Immortals

Fanghu (literally, "square jar") is one of five mythical island homes of immortals traditionally thought to lie in the sea off the east coast of China. Fanghu was a common theme in Chinese painting, and this hanging scroll depicting it is one of the finest. Belief in this island dates to at least the third century B.C., when the first emperor of China sent an expedition into the eastern sea in the hopes of making contact with beings who could teach him the secrets of immortality. This expedition remains one of the more tragic events in Chinese history: since immortals were believed to have eternal youth, the emperor sent an embassy of young boys and girls to communicate with them. None returned. Largely because of this event, Taoists came to believe that Fanghu and the other islands either lay beyond violent seas that prevented mortals from finding them or rested on the backs of great tortoises who were constantly in motion, so that the mountains had no permanent location.

Wang Yun depicted the mythical Fanghu rising from such an ocean. In this scroll, a precariously perched, oddly-shaped rock formation rises forcefully from surging waves. The other islands can be seen in the background through mist. The island is inhabited by immortals, whose red-and-green palaces with gold roofs resemble Taoist temples nestled in the folds of the rock. The rest of the mountain is an ideal landscape adorned with magical plants and trees, misty vapors, and mysterious caverns from which waterfalls descend. The inscription in the upper left by the artist indicates that this hanging scroll was painted for a Taoist named Helao and based on an older Song-dynasty composition.

Wang Yun (1652—1735 or later)
Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign, dated 1699
Hanging scroll; ink and colors on silk, 142 x 60.3 cm
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (also in [e] Fig 4, page 84).
Wang Yun
Lu Guang The above "The Fanghu Isle of the Immortals" by Wang Yun may very well be inspired by this monochrome hanging scroll ink on paper painting, named Spring Dawn at Cinnabar Terrace (under the figure it states: Spring Dawn Over the Elixir Terrace), by Lu Guang, Yuan Dynasty, ca. 1369 (also in [e] Fig 11, page 91).

This however is said to be a sacred spot identified as Mount Mao Shan near Nanjing.
Mount Mao was an ancient Daoist center and is here symbolically represented by the artist as a manifestation of his own practice of "inner alchemy". An outdoor Daoist altar is depicted on a cliff at the top of the mountain.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Edward Elliott Family Collection, Purchase, the Dillon Fund Gift, 1982 (1982.2.2).
Image copyright the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Monochrome landscape ink painting examples

Today, ink monochrome painting still is the art form most closely associated with Zen Buddhism. A primary design principle was the creation of a (famous) landscape based on, or at least greatly influenced by, the three-dimensional monochrome ink (sumi) landscape painting, sumi-e or suibokuga. In Japan the garden has the same status as a work of art.

Ink Paintings This slide show shows a collection of ink paintings and the type of paintings on which Japanese gardens where based, or at least highly influenced.

Very close resemblence can be seen in the few left-over meticulously maintained samurai-gardens, buké-yashiki teien, in Chiran. The gardens of these samurai houses, in the town of Chiran in Satsuma province, were built during Edo times according to classical principles. A half-dozen or so of these gardens are on view in the town of Chiran; their associated houses are still inhabited.
Click the miniature painting to play the slide-show. Though each garden is different in its composition, they mostly use rock groupings and shrubs to represent a classic scene of mountains, valleys and waterfalls taken from Chinese landscape painting. In the best of them the view also incorporates the hills behind as "borrowed scenery".
Some photo's of samurai-gardens can also be found in the above "Tsukiyama examples", in the "Stone sttings examples" below and in the Karikomi and hako-zukuri topiary examples. All of the gardens can be found in Samurai-gardens, buké-yashiki teien, in Chiran.

Stone and rock: Buddhist triad

As the "Buddhist triad" in Tsubo-en is placed in The Ginshanada, we discuss it in that chapter: Buddhist triad stone arrangement

However,... there is an interesting aspect directly related to placement of the Buddhist triad in the southwest direction of Shumi-sen. Actually we had to place it there.

In Sakuteiki 5 "Taboos" (Kinki) and "setting stones", there is an interesting, if not important, taboo related to Buddhism, geomancy and local superstition.
A stone that is 1.2 to 1.5 meters tall should not be placed in the northeasterly direction (of the house). This will become a Phantom Stone (reiseki), and be cursed. And since it would become a landmark to aid the entry of evil spirits, people will not be able to live there for long

However, if a Buddhist Trinity is placed in the south-west, there will be no curse, neither will devils be able to enter.
So we did the latter and the problem was solved. And it even looks great!

Stone and rock: Stone settings

This section shows a selection of fine authentic examples that all originate from Japan. These examples show how design principles and rules are applied and interpreted and how and what materials are used in genuine Japanese gardens. These examples should be of help and inspiration during realization of your own Japanese garden.

Part of these photos is from our own trips others have been collected from different sources, including but not limited to the Internet. New examples will be frequently added.

It is not an exact-science to draw the line between garden-elements to distinguish between elements such as tsukiyama, ginshanada, (O-) karikomi, hako-zukuri, stone-settings, islands, borrowed-scenery and so on. Under each subject, or better subject-area, we try to show examples with focus on the main subject. Often an example will be in a context with other elements.

With regard to stone-settings the above is even more so in that stone settings can be in gravel, and represent islands, on the land (tsukiyama), partly in gravel and on land, and may or may not be combined with shrubs in (O-)karikomi, hako-zukuri or other shapes.

Myoshin-ji temple in Kyoto.   Stone setting in Komyozen-ji, Fukuoka.   Ginshanade stone-setting in Nanzen-ji, Kyoto.   A stone-setting in the subtemple Ryogen-in in Daitoku-ji in Kyoto (Mirei Shigemori).
The western garden is called Ryogin-tei that means something like "Dragon Chanting Garden". 
The three large stones in the middle depict a head of a dragon and other stones are its coiled 
body protruding from cloud.   A stone-setting in the subtemple Ryogen-in in Daitoku-ji in Kyoto (Mirei Shigemori).
 Note the red gravel ! The northern garden, Furi-no-niwa (Garden of the Inseparable), 
depicts a scene that two dogs protect young Mukan Fumon from wolves. 
The reddish gravel makes this garden quite unique.   Stone-setting by Mirei Shigemori, Tofukuji temple, Kyoto.   Close up of the stone-setting by Mirei Shigemori, Tofukuji temple, Kyoto.   A marvellous stone setting in one of the samurai gardens in Chiron, Kyushu.
As you can see here there is no raked gravel "sea" but just sand and clay soil.   The southern garden of the Hojo in Tofuku-ji in Kyoto.   The Hojo garden in the temple Tofuku-ji in Kyoto.
 In the southern garden of the Hojo. Shigemori used exceptionally big stones as karesansui garden.   Sata Naotada samurai garden - Chiran in Kyushu

For some unique examples of karesansui garden landscapes see: Samurai residence gardens.

Tsukiyama Planting

Adapted to the availability, situation and surrounding, in general shrubs are used as a replacement for rocks and stone and only a few real stone are used. In Japanese gardens rocks are often used interchangeably with shaped shrubs and so we do in Tsubo-en. Where the Ginshanada is representative of "empty space", the tsukiyama in Tsubo-en forms a natural transition to the (imaginary) hills and mountains formed by stone and shaped shrubs, karikomi and hako-zukuri. The idea of "empty space" is substantially continued in the tsukiyama in particular on the foreground area´s. In the context of the ink painting above the Tsukiyama area mostly represents the second and third tier.
The Ginshanada to Tsukiyama transition and foreground relates to the painting technique middle-tier.Hence the Ginshanada, as first or front-tier, is close enough to show the ripples on the water.
Also see: How to typify, architect and compose a Japanese garden ?
These photo´s taken from a low position give a good impression of the height level differences and effect.

The Triad is surrounded by an area of about 15 cm (6") in height. The ground cover here (Cotula) is mostly less than 1 cm (0.4") in front and up to 5 cm (2") under the shrubs in the back.

In the back we see a karikomi mountain-scape.
1898
This shows the Turtle island with a height of up to 30 cm (12"). The Thyme here is only 2 cm (0.8") at the top and perhaps double of that at the bottom. 1910
This shows a glimpse back from the path towards the Tsukubai at the entrance. The ground-height (further to the left) gets as high as 35 cm (14").
Here the Cotula ground cover grows abundantly and reaches a height of almost 10 cm (4").
1908

Directly related subjects

The following subjects are directly related to the tsukiyama and will be addressed in separate chapters:

Most relevant related construction chapters

These are the most relevant related construction and build chapters.


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