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Home > Worldwide Gardening > Chinese Garden > Entrance into separate reality
Entrance into separate reality in Chinese Gardening
Garden was supposed to offer completeness, aesthetic delight, and seclusion - a world away from the ordinary reality of competitiveness, official rank, pragmatic reality of instrumental values. One who enters a garden has already entered a separate reality -- although some persons are not aware of this. We know that this awareness was not exclusively Chinese. Writing about the last decades of life of the famous French landscape painter Monet, Gordon and Forge remark: "For Monet his garden became a world, standing in for every landscape he had ever explored. He could find within it every intimation of shelter and of infinity he had asked of any motif"

Hermits specialized in passing to a separate reality through miniaturization. Miniaturization had three forms. One form was miniaturization through a diagram, or drawing. "Hermits, although confined to the narrow world of their retreat, still had access to the entire universe in all its variety. Did they want to go off on a wandering trip? They had only to draw on the floor of the hut the site that they wanted to visit, They would create it by drawing it..." Second form was miniaturization of the environment. "A retreat, a hermitage in the mountain (shan-chai) must have among its furnishings a bowl garden... it lets the owner take mystical voyages." third form was miniaturization of the Taoist magician himself.

The visitors of the garden could use a tunnel, and/or cave (designed in bigger gardens), as an entrance into anothre reality.. "In fact, the ideal of another world is closely bound to the theme of the cave, to the point that the typical residence of immortals is called tung-t`ien, a heaven [that is, nature, universe] formed by a cave...The caves are connected...by means of subterranean passages that let Taoist adepts travel from one to the next."

l) In philosophical Taoism, entering the separate reality of the Taoist vision is conjunction of the inward, and outward: a passage to the seat of the spiritual (ling fu) and through the gateway (- men) of ten thousand mysteries (miao), as explained by Lao Tzu (chapter 1). This means returning to the source (or root). Source is at the same time an individual (inner), and universal (ground from which all beings issue, and to which they return). This source appears as ultimate vacuity and ultimate fullness (draw from it and it never runs dry -- Lao Tzu, ch. 4-6). Spiritually, it is the ideal of a free, pure, `empty` heart, cosmically it is the vacuity of the Tao which brings forth all origination.

In the novel The Story of the Stone (Dream of the Read Chamber - ch. 17) the visitors in the new garden are giving names, and one of the paths is named: `Pathway to Mysteries.` In popular Taoism, the world of immortals and fairies is sometimes above the earth, or in some lofty place, and sometimes it is inside the earth, as a giant cave-universe, with another sky, sun, and moon.

2) In Hua-yen philosophy dharmadhatu (fa-chieh) is different from the ordinary world of individuality (loka-dhatu), and at the same time it is not different. One can understand this upon entering dharmadhatu (dharmadhatu-praveša -- ju fa-chieh). In dharmadhatu there is a universal interfusion of things -- in one object, all other objects reflect, one object reflects in all others, retaining its individuality. There is an interpenetration of all objects, although they are separate. In modern times this is compared with the principle of ecological inter-relatedness. The diagram showing ecological inter- relatedness also explains this principle in Hua-yen. In Hua-yen, the simile of Vairochana tower presents this idea. Searching for enlightenment, Sudhana comes to the Vairochana tower. In the western (Islamic, and Christian) traditions, gardens were sometimes mementos of the Garden of Eden, situated somewhere in the East. In Mahayana Buddhism, we find the idea of a blissful place, or pure land (Sukhavati), situated in the Western region, and described in The Larger Sukhavati- vyuha. "The great city of Chang`an had such a park which Ban Gu, the poet and historian (32-92), described as a vast natural landscape containing thirty-six palaces and buildings, magic streams, marvelous pools, lakes and islands crowned with fairy rock. In addition to these elements, familiar in later gardens, Han pleasure parks also contained rare animals and birds imported from far distant countries; and thus was created an idealized universe in microcosmos, representing for owners a paradise on earth." A small scholars garden had no such pretensions. But a well-designed garden had this capacity -- to connect various realms and dimensions. Its design displayed the transmutability of reality and illusion, through the transformation `painting-landscape-painting.` The garden was designed as a simulacrum of a landscape, or parts of it were simulacrums of paintings: the window in front, with special arrangement behind. In garden design the `illusion` of the painting, and `reality` of the landscape overlapped through a designing scheme called `borrowing scenery` (chieh ching), which was invented at the end of 16th, or the beginning of 17th century (Chi Cheng and Li Yu wrote at the time about it). In this way it was possible to `borrow` a scenery behind the wall through a `landscape window.` The scenery could be a part of the garden behind the wall, or part of the landscape outside the confines of the garden (for example a faraway forest, or hillside). `Borrowing scenery` was a popular form of enriching the garden scenery by `framing` the reality of an actual landscape, outside the confines of the garden, into an illusive `painting` inside the garden. Chi Cheng in The Craft of Gardens says: "Even though the garden may be limited in size...nevertheless the views that one sees need not be confined within the garden itself. As one looks out towards all directions, one can `borrow` a beautiful mountain range that rises high under a clear sky...That is what is meant by being clever without force."
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