Water and rocks symbolism
Flow of Life
In the Japanese Garden and many other gardens around the world, a river or creek, symbolizes the flow of life. The source is the symbol of birth and youth, the power of the waterfall symbolizes the force that pushes a person through the long path of life, the fast flowing water that breaches the little dams to continue its flow symbolizes the tensions a person experiences in life. The river that becomes wider and wider and begins as wild river but transforms into a gentle creek symbolizes the wildness of someone’s youth and the gentleness of adulthood. Then finally, the river ends in a calm lake, a calming spot where you can fully give yourself to meditation without worrying about earthly worries.
The Yatsuhashi (八ツ橋) or zigzagbridge bridges the starting garden with the central one. The bridge planks rest on top of each other in angles of 90 degrees. In the Japanese superstition it is believed that demons can’t lift up their feet or walk along square angles. As such the bridge guards the central garden from evil.
The original name of the Yatsuhashi is ‘eight-planks bridge’, but it is also know and the floweringbridge or irisbridge. These names originate from an ancient Japanese poetry collection ‘The Stories of Ise’ or 伊勢物語. In one of these poems a similar bridge is described as a place where people gather to rest and admire the beautiful iris flowers that grow from the lake.
The waterfall is more than just a simple waterfall. It is the dragongatewaterfall or Ryūmon-no-Taki (竜門の滝), based on an ancient Chinese legend. It symbolizes the division between reality of life and the world after death. In the story it is said that a koi fish tried to swim up the waterfall to cross this border. Through unwavering faith and perseverance it succeeds in doing this thereby transforming into a Dragon, an animal which symbolizes goodness and purity, and is also the symbol of imperial power in China.
In our dragongatewaterfall the rock that splits the waterfall symbolizes the koi fish that tries to jump up the water. The symbolism and the story is a reminder for the visitors that despite the shortcomings of the koi fish you can still succeed through perseverance and faith to reach a higher purpose.
All the rocks you can see at the waterfall gate were directly taken from nature, without adjustments, and the waterfall is inspired by the waterfall in the 14th century garden of the Tenryuuji temple in Kyoto.
The Spine of Rocks
The rocks are purposely disconnected to force the visitor to be attentive as it crosses them. In the art of Japanese gardens it draws your attention to the idea that also in life you must be attentive and careful as you take new steps forward.
The second symbolism of the spine of rocks is in the rocks themselves. They symbolize eternity. Despite facing the elements of nature they stay in place.
According to the ancient art of Japanese gardens you need to use rocks as they appear in nature without adjustments and in the same position. The 257 rocks you can find in the Japanese Garden originate from glaciers from the Utzall in Austria.
The Yukimi-doro (織部灯籠) or stonelantern is a household element in every Japanese garden. Ours is fashioned after the famous stonelanterns in the Senyuu-ji temple in Kyoto, the cemetery of one of the Japanese Emperors.
In the past stonelanters were only used in Buddhist temples where they would light up the path towards the temple building. It was believed that lighting up the stonelanterns was an offering to Buddha.
The light of the stonelanterns also has a different meaning in Japan. They also resemble the light of fireflies which are plentiful in the valleys of Japan. Their lights generally symbolize love as such lighting the stonelaterns was a sign of love towards the Buddha, but it was also believed that firefly lights were the souls of passed away warriors and samurai who were still roaming the earth.
Mirror in the water and pebblebeach
The main building of the Japanese Garden, the ceremonial house, reflects in the water of the lake and as such becomes as one with the rest of the Garden. It blends together with the trees and nature surrounding it without forcing its own architecture on its surroundings.
Because the building isn't placed on the ground but is built on the water, the building is naturally cooled. The roof sticks out pretty far making it so that no direct sunlight ever hits the inside of the building. Which is also a way of cooling the house by Japanese ancient design.
The pebblebeach tries to mimic the sensation of sitting at a real beach as the water ebbs and flows like the ocean. In most Japanese Gardens, as well as ours, this is the perfect place to feed the kois and enjoy the view of the Garden.