How many people visit the park each year? Is Garden of the Gods free to visit? Where can I find a map of the park? Garden of the Gods Park Map. Is the Garden of the Gods a National Park? How did the red rocks form? The rocks are conglomerates of red, pink, and white sandstones and limestone. You can travel back in time to learn more about the history of these rock formations by watching an entertaining minute film during your visit to the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center. Are dogs allowed in Garden of the Gods Park?
Yes, dogs are allowed on a leash throughout the park. Please pick up after your pet, it is the law. What is the elevation at Garden of the Gods? Garden of the Gods sits at about 6, feet or meters above sea level. How far is Garden of the Gods from Manitou Incline and other attractions?
Below are approximate times from Garden of the Gods to nearby attractions and points of interest. Who donated Garden of the Gods Park and when was it founded? This part of the story begins in when General William Jackson Palmer, founder of the city of Colorado Springs, convinced his good friend, Charles Elliott Perkins to buy acres of land known as the Garden of the Gods.
In , Perkins purchased another acres and in his letters to General Palmer, expressed his desire to donate his acres to the City of Colorado Springs. Perkins was undoubtedly influenced by General Palmer, who already had donated more than 1, acres of his own land to become public city park lands. In , Charles Perkins died before he had officially arranged for the Garden of the Gods in Colorado to become a public park. How was Garden of the Gods named? The first European explorers referred to this site as Red Rock Corral.
His companion retorted that this place of incredible beauty was suited for more than just a beer garden, that it was a place fit for gods to assemble. So you think you can climb the Manitou Incline? This is considered an extreme trail and is an advanced hike! There are four main ways to explore Pikes Peak and reach the summit: 1. Driving Your Car Experience the mountain up close by ascending the scenic Pikes Peak Highway, a spectacular toll road…. Seven Falls in Colorado Springs is the only waterfall in Colorado to make National Geographic's list of international waterfalls.
Visitors can view the scenic wonder of Seven Falls from…. The plans in Chapter 12 are by Sandra-Jasmin Kuhn. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Creation of meaning in gardens. Perennial symbolic themes and features, such as groves, rocks, grottoes, fountains and labyrinths. The garden as an initiatory journey. Balancing of Yin and Yang. Examples from history and from presentday Hong Kong. The tradition of bonsai Japanese gardens — similarities and dissimilarities, when compared with those of China. The influence of Shinto and of Pure Land Buddhism. Examples of Zen Buddhist monastery gardens in Kyoto. Its adoption by Islam and its recurring features such as four water channels representing the rivers of Eden.
Plant symbolism in the Islamic context. Examples of Islamic gardens in India and Spain. Transition to the Renaissance and the rediscovery of classical motifs. Key works of literature used as sources.
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Abundance of pagan imagery. Renaissance magical and memory systems as a possible basis for the iconography and design of certain gardens. The park of Versailles and its dense mythological symbolism. Sanspareil, Bavaria, based on the story of Telemachus, son of Odysseus. Some comparable French and Italian examples.
Gardens as settings for monuments to the dead. More recent symbolic gardens and parks in Norway and Germany. Gardens in cyberspace and the possibilities offered by computer technology in garden design. The alchemy of plant growth. Planting by the moon, companion plants, and how to work with earth energies in the garden. Tuning in to the space, choosing the overall mood, selecting decorative motifs and plants. Three case studies, illustrated by plans and drawings. Sand garden at the Ryoan-ji temple, Kyoto.
It consists essentially of an area of pale sand carefully raked into a pattern of parallel lines, the surface broken only by 15 carefully placed stones. Looking out from one of the pavilions of the Red Fort garden, Delhi. Image from a French sixteenth-century manuscript showing an enclosed garden in the medieval style. Statue of Hercules at the Villa Castello, Florence. The Fountain of Oceanus in the Boboli garden, Florence. Garden of the Villa Garzoni, Collodi, Tuscany. One of the fountains of the seasons at Versailles: Autumn.
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Paving at the entrance to the Cullowhee garden. My theme is the garden as a sacred space, an outdoor temple carrying an intentional transformative message, religious, mystical or philosophical in meaning. For the author, this rich subject has been a compelling personal quest. It began in the year when I was invited to write an article on Stonypath now called Little Sparta , the world-famous garden in Scotland created by the poet and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay and his then wife Sue Finlay.
One afternoon in late summer I found myself driving up a bumpy dirt road towards what appeared from the distance to be a small green oasis, sheltered by windswept trees, amid the bleak Lanarkshire hills. But, once inside the garden, its dimensions seemed miraculously to expand like the Tardis of Dr Who. With Ian Hamilton Finlay as my guide I was shown an astonishing world filled with specially created objects — sculptures, reliefs, plaques, sundials, classical columns, bird-tables, poems written on paving-stones — each placed in a carefully chosen and beautifully tended setting and each carrying a verbal message that resonated with its surroundings and evoked a response on many levels.
It was and is a garden of profoundly powerful impact. Another person who opened my eyes to the possibilities of garden design was the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, who died in and whom I met in the s when she was in the early stages of creating her amazing Tarot Garden in Tuscany. A documentary film has been made about her life and the creation of the garden. With echoes of the weird sixteenth-century garden of Bomarzo near Rome, it is a place of intense exuberance and vitality. What Niki de Saint Phalle and the Finlays were doing made me realize how impoverished most modern gardens are by comparison.
It showed me how a garden, instead of being just a collection of ornamental plants in a decorative setting, can be a place resonant with meaning. The experience led me to realize that they were not the first people to use gardens in this way. Indeed, they themselves were consciously rediscovering and reinventing the art of using gardens to convey a message.
Inspired by their example, I began to study the gardening traditions of other cultures — China, Japan, Persia, the Islamic world, Renaissance Italy, eighteenth-century England. I read all the relevant material I could find, and I began to visit and photograph as many gardens as I could. After I joined the United Nations system in I found myself travelling to many different countries in all regions of the world — and of course gardens were on my agenda whenever possible.
Most of the photographs reproduced here were taken by me on those journeys. Like all good quests, this one contains an element of the impossible. Trying to identify the meaning of a garden is like trying to read some old book, half mouldered into illegibility, where certain pages are written in a long-forgotten code and others are re-writing themselves constantly, adjusting their message to the age or to the individual reader. A garden is not a text with a fixed meaning.
Even if some gardens begin that way, over time they change hands, become overgrown, are re-shaped, re-planted and re-ornamented, always acquiring new meaning. During the course of this book I will allude to a number of such moments that I myself have experienced. This book is therefore about an impossible quest — impossible, but not quite. Many gardens were created as places of deliberate meaning — meaning written in a language that can sometimes be understood, however dimly, by the visitor of today. All languages have a structure, Introduction Contents xvii and I have attempted in Chapter 1 to categorize the basic elements that make up the symbolic language of horticulture — even though the grammar, vocabulary and idioms may vary from culture to culture.
Taking this structure as a point of reference, I describe a range of gardens of different ages, regions and traditions that convey meaning in different ways. The choice reflects my own particular interests — religion, myth, magic and the esoteric — although I touch on other areas of meaning as well. Since I began work on this book a number of others have ventured into similar territory. This book, while dealing with many of the same motifs, has a fundamentally different approach and focus. On one level it is a detailed account of my own personal journey through this territory and my encounters with a number of remarkable gardens and sometimes with their creators.
It also contains a chapter with practical suggestions. There, however, my approach is not to start from a particular model of sacred garden but rather from the nature of the space available, and to ask what sort of symbolic language it calls for, in the light of the information given in earlier chapters. Inevitably, given the vast scope of the subject, there was much that I had to leave out. For example, I devote only a small part of Chapter 9 to cemeteries and just one chapter 11 specifically to the theme of interacting with nature, its energies, intelligences and cycles. Obviously there is much more to be said on both of these subjects.
During my research I had recourse to many books on different aspects of the subject, to which I refer in my endnotes and in my bibliography, but I will mention here a few of them that I found particularly interesting or significant. An author who has greatly inspired me is Princess Emanuela Kretzulesco, whose book Les Jardins du Songe latest edition is a remarkable study of the Renaissance work Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and its influence on garden design throughout Europe.
Her xviii Gardens of the Gods: Myth, Magic and Meaning book, although controversial, enabled me to perceive in a whole new way the symbolism of such gardens as those of Versailles, Fontainebleau and the Medici villas in Tuscany. The book Landscape and Memory by the cultural historian Simon Schama , is a rich exploration of the way in which history and myth merge in our perception of landscape and gardens.
Turning to the Orient, a classic study is The Chinese Garden by Maggie Keswick , which contains much valuable information on the influence of Taoism and other religious and philosophical traditions on garden design. There are also a number of more general works that I have found useful. Although written three-quarters of a century ago, it remains one of the best and most comprehensive surveys of gardening history.
However, the most important source for me has been the gardens themselves, which can speak more eloquently than any book. Many of the gardens that I mention have long since vanished, like the fabulous gardens of Heidelberg created by Salomon de Caus in the seventeenth century.
Some have fallen into ruin or semi-ruin, like the once legendary gardens of the Red Fort in Delhi. Some, like those of the Zen Buddhist monasteries in Kyoto, have been lovingly maintained for centuries. Some have been created very recently. Some exist only in the minds of poets or on the canvases of painters. Some will remain for ever unrealized dreams. All, however, have in common a conception of the garden as a place in which nature and art come together to create a special kind of meaning. I hope this book will inspire its readers to look at — and perhaps to create — gardens in the light of an expanded vision of what a garden can be.
What is a garden? But the people who dreamed up the gardens I have just mentioned would give a very different answer. To them, gardens were — or are — not merely places of beauty but places of meaning. To the modern mind the idea of gardens as conveyors of meaning is an unfamiliar one.
Yet a garden can convey meaning in the same way that a building can. To visit one of the great medieval cathedrals such as Chartres is to experience not just a building but a kind of book, a text written in carved stonework and stained glass, which makes a statement about medieval theology, 2 Gardens of the Gods: Myth, Magic and Meaning cosmology and values — indeed about the whole order of things as the medieval mind saw it. Similarly, to visit, say, the garden of Versailles is to catch a glimpse of the world order as it was seen by Louis XIV and his court.
In other words, a garden can be a metaphor, used to convey a world view, a mood, a thought or an ideal. A whole book — or many — could be devoted to the garden as a metaphor in literature and art. We shall of course touch on this aspect of the subject. Primarily, however, we shall focus on real gardens.
What makes gardens such potentially powerful metaphors is the way in which they bring together nature and art.
This combination allows for enormous variations in emphasis, depending on how nature is viewed in particular cultures. For cultures that live inseparably from nature the concept of a garden can have no meaning, since a garden is by definition something that is set apart. For some cultures, such as those of ancient China and Japan, a garden is a refinement of nature.
The modern city dweller is likely to see gardens as places where a lost natural beauty can be recreated. Then again, a garden means one thing to a dweller in an arid desert environment and another thing to someone from a damp and verdant region. On the other hand, there are certain motifs that appear to have a universal or widely shared meaning that crosses cultural boundaries — the fountain, with its life-giving water, is one example. Jung believed. A garden, like a good poem, contains many levels of meaning and draws a different response from every individual.
There are, however, enough shared images and symbols either within or across cultures to make possible the existence of a language of gardens — or rather many languages, in fact an almost infinite The symbolic language of gardens 3 number. It would be impossible to learn all of these languages — in any case, many are lost to memory. Nevertheless it is possible to identify a common structure to these languages, which has three basic ingredients.
First, there is the form of the garden as a whole. This includes the lines traced by the perimeter and the internal divisions, which can be straight or rounded, symmetrical or asymmetrical. They can incorporate significant numbers or special geometrical shapes. Compass alignments can also be important.
The formal aspect would include the question of what proportion of the garden is left to nature and what proportion is shaped by human hand. The English gardening tradition, for example, prefers to leave more to nature than the French tradition with its preference for symmetry and formality.
Japanese gardens employ a sleight of hand, which creates a natural appearance that is in fact carefully contrived. Questions of form, shape and compass alignment are particularly important in gardens based on the feng shui tradition, which will be discussed in detail later. The second basic ingredient of the language consists of the objects that are created or placed in the garden or the existing landscape features to which specific meanings are attached. These might be natural or man-made hills, rivers, ponds, caves — not forgetting the animals that live in the territory or have been introduced there.
Such features might also include fountains, statues, reliefs, topiary hedges, labyrinths, pavilions and gazebos. The third ingredient of the language relates to the plants in the garden and the meanings they are given. A plant has of course a large number of different meanings and associations depending on the region and the culture.
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Its meaning can be determined by physical characteristics, such as colour, shape or chemical properties. In some cases the astrological attribution is an important factor. Among the herbs, for example, rosemary corresponds to the Sun, mint to Mercury, thyme to Venus and sage to Jupiter. Then there is the whole field of religious and mythological associations. We can think, for instance, of the laurel, sacred to Apollo and symbolizing glory and poetic inspiration, the willow sacred to Hecate, goddess of witchcraft, the oak, sacred to Jupiter, and ivy and the vine, sacred to Bacchus.
A more extensive list of plant meanings can be found in the appendix to this book. The vocabulary of that language has no end, as 4 Gardens of the Gods: Myth, Magic and Meaning it has been reinvented many times in history and continues to be created. Nevertheless, just as the origins of many European words can be traced back thousands of years, so many of the meanings attached to garden features stem from the very earliest civilizations that are known to have created gardens.
At this point it might be helpful to look at some of these recurring motifs before setting off to explore the sacred and symbolic gardens of specific regions and periods. The list of motifs that follows is not intended to be exhaustive, and the order is intuitive rather than logical, with certain motifs grouped thematically together. Images of paradise Perhaps the oldest metaphor connected with gardens is the idea of the garden as an image of paradise, and it is interesting to follow this metaphor — or complex of metaphors — down through the ages.
The idea can be traced back at least 5, years to ancient Mesopotamia, that is roughly the area that we now know as Iran and Iraq. Then as now, this was a hot, dry region. It was therefore natural to imagine paradise as a green oasis where the gods and immortals lived or as a verdant place of primal bliss and innocence — as in the Old Testament account of the Garden of Eden. It had four rivers dividing the garden according to the points of the compass, and coming together to form a cross — a feature that we find repeatedly in the gardens of later times, notably in the paradise gardens of the Islamic tradition, which will be discussed in detail in Chapter 3.
This theme of the four rivers was taken up and reinterpreted again and again over the centuries. In some accounts of paradise there was a fountain at the centre where the rivers intersected.
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Marking the centre The image of the centre has a profound symbolic meaning. Arguably the concept of paradise originally referred to this centre rather than just to the heavenly abode of the dead. Each of these geographical centres is symbolic of a spiritual centre to which each individual can orient himself or herself, and in every garden there is the possibility to create such a centre.
There are many ways of marking the centre. The fountain at the intersection of the four rivers of paradise has already been mentioned. Another feature described in Mesopotamian sources is that of the mound or hill which stood in the centre of paradise, sometimes combined with the fountain. The sacred hill or mountain features also among the Hindus as Meru, in the Western Grail legend as Montsalvat, the home of the Grail King and his knights, and in ancient Greek mythology as Olympus, home of the gods, as well as Parnassus, abode of Apollo and of the Muses — these latter also inhabit Mount Helicon, where the winged horse Pegasus struck his hooves against the rock, causing the spring known as Hippocrene to gush forth.
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It is for this reason that fountains are often surmounted by the figure of Pegasus on top of a rock that sometimes represents Parnassus and Helicon combined. For Bacon, horticulture was the perfect expression of this possibility. Examples on the continent of Europe include the spiral hill at the Eremitage near Bayreuth in Bavaria, the mound in the gardens at Enghien, Belgium, and the terraced pyramid in the spectacular island garden of Isola Bella in Lake Maggiore, Italy. As for mounts representing Parnassus, one of them, combined with a fountain and complete with Pegasus and statues of Apollo and the Muses, was created by the great seventeenthcentury French garden architect Salomon de Caus, for the garden at Somerset House in London, but has long since vanished.
A similar example is illustrated in his book Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes, published in Other examples of fountains combined with mounts are found in his Hortus Palatinus , the collection of designs for the Heidelberg palace gardens, created by de Caus for Prince Frederick of the Palatinate. These gardens, one of the marvels of their age, were tragically destroyed following the defeat of Frederick by the Habsburg forces in at the Battle of the White Mountain. Compass points and fourfold patterns In gardens where there is a strongly emphasized centre, there is often also an emphasis on the four directions of the compass or the four quarters of the earth.
In Islamic gardens this follows naturally from the placing of the traditional four watercourses, already mentioned. We shall also find it in other horticultural styles, such as that of the botanical garden, where plants are allocated to the quarters according to their region of origin. Both of these groups are represented allegorically in countless gardens, and both can be linked with the compass points.
In Europe the most common system of correspondences is: east with spring and air; south with summer and fire; west with autumn and water; north with winter and earth. In the oriental feng shui tradition there are five elements and five directions, since the centre is considered one of the compass points. Approaches and entrances Whether we consider a garden as an image of paradise or as a kind of temple, a place set apart, one of its key features is the entrance or threshold.
Cirlot, in his Dictionary of Symbols, defines the threshold as: A symbol of transition and transcendence. In architectural symbolism the threshold is always given a special significance by the elaboration and enrichment of its structure by means of porches, perrons, porticoes, triumphal arches, etc. Hence the function of the threshold is clearly to symbolize both the reconciliation and separation of the two worlds of the profane and the sacred. Sphinxes, for example, are ubiquitous in Western gardens, flanking gates, stairways and pathways.
The sphinx, with its dual nature — half-animal, half-human — underlines the theme of transition and the fact that the garden is a meeting place of nature and human artifice. Other dual creatures such as gryphons half-lion, half-eagle and satyrs half-man, half-goat are also found as guardians of entrances. The experience of transition created by a threshold can be either sudden, as when one unexpectedly stumbles on an urban garden in the depths of a city, or gradual, as in the case of the great country estates with their long approach avenues and imposing gateways.
In the gardens explored in this book we shall find both types of threshold and many varieties in between. Trees, groves and woods More than anything else that grows from the ground, trees have been the object of reverence and worship from the very earliest times. Indeed the sacred grove, the wooded place set apart and possessing a special atmosphere of numinosity, was arguably the earliest form of garden.
In many mythologies and religious traditions trees play a role as oracles or places of transformation or divine revelation.
I have already mentioned the tradition of the tree in the centre of paradise, which often represents death but also birth and immortality. In the Middle East this was often a cypress, but many other peoples, including the Hindus, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Maoris of New Zealand and the pre-Columbian civilizations of Central and South America, incorporated a sacred tree into their images of the afterworld or the abode of the gods.
A similar role is played by the Irminsul, the symbolic family tree of the Germanic peoples. Although the mystique of trees is universal, they have acquired very different associations, depending on the cultural context. In the Germanic north, by contrast, they were sacred places. In the background, in stark contrast to the shadowy wood, one can just see part of a sunlit Doric colonnade, gleaming in white and ochre, overlooking a pale blue sea.
A similar symbolic contrast can also be made between the forest and the desert. At Versailles, for example, the extensive use of topiary becomes symbolic of mastery over nature. It is frequently used for labyrinths see below. The word comes from the Latin topiarius, which originally meant one who created pleasure gardens, inspired by paintings of landscapes topias in Greek.
As such, the topiarius was distinct from the hortulanus, who created gardens for more practical purposes. In time the art of topiary came to refer to one specific way of beautifying a garden, namely by artistically shaping trees and bushes. The ancient Romans used it for representing animals, obelisks, pyramids, porticoes, statuary, giant letters and many other things. Since then it has gone in and out of fashion a number of times. In the Middle Ages it was reduced to the extreme simplicity of the hedge border, except in the Islamic world, where more elaborate forms were kept alive.
In the Renaissance it returned, and a number of illustrations of its use are found in the seminal work, the Hypnerotomachia or Dream of Poliphilus see Chapter 4. It went out of fashion again in eighteenthcentury England with the open, sweeping landscapes of the Capability Brown school, but returned in the twentieth century and is now popular among gardeners all over the world who have the patience 10 Gardens of the Gods: Myth, Magic and Meaning to work with it. It can be used with a variety of plants including box, yew, privet, cypress and juniper.
The elements In the West the four traditional elements are earth, water, air and fire. In the ancient world these were considered the basic constituents of everything in the universe. This belief was continued by the alchemists and survives to this day in astrology, where each zodiacal sign is allocated to one of the elements.
The elements can be linked with the four compass points and the four seasons see below , and can be represented symbolically in many ways, some of which will be suggested in Chapter In China and Japan there are five elements: earth, water, fire, wood and metal. In Chinese and Japanese gardens it is considered important to balance the elements, such as through the juxtaposition of plants belonging to different elements. Just to observe the process in a garden is in itself to witness magic at work.
However, there are those who want to go further and portray the seasons symbolically in the garden, perhaps by linking them with the compass directions and the elements, or with the signs of the Zodiac that mark the course of the solar year, or perhaps by personifying them as gods and goddesses. Here, as we shall see, is a subject for rich iconography. Similarly we cannot ignore the miracle of the daily cycle, which we can, if we wish, emphasize both symbolically and practically through a sundial. Light and darkness — and other contrasts The element of contrast is a feature of many of the gardens described in this book — light, open spaces contrasted with dense shrubberies, The symbolic language of gardens 11 grottoes and dim, ferny corners; or tidy, well-tended areas contrasted with wild and overgrown or bleak and rocky places.
The boundary line can by analogy be seen as the boundary between the civilized and the primitive, the rational and the irrational, clarity and mystery. In the juxtaposition of two contrasting modes lies a special kind of allure. Stones Stones have been revered throughout the world from the earliest times. The Chinese, the Japanese, the Celts, the ancient Hebrews, the indigenous people of America and Africa — all have treated stones with a special awe. They have been seen as dwelling places of gods, tokens of regal power, symbols of longevity, oracles of wisdom. The best-known example of this from the ancient world is the Omphalos in the temple at Delphi, once the spiritual centre of ancient Greece.
It is therefore not surprising to find that stones are often given a special place and significance in gardens. Chiselled into these standing stones are special images — birds, spirals, complex geometrical patterns or shapes that look like Arabic calligraphy — each one intended to represent the particular quality and energies of the spot. Apart from being very beautiful objects, they have apparently had a beneficial effect on the atmosphere and mood of the town. Caves and grottoes are heavy with mythic and symbolic associations. They are profoundly feminine places, suggestive of the womb of Mother Earth, especially when combined with water.
From the very earliest times they have been places of initiation, divine revelation and miraculous events.
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It has two entrances, one of them facing the North Wind, where people can enter, but the one toward the South Wind has more divinity. That is the way of the immortals, and no men enter by that way. The rites of Mithraism, one of the most widespread cults in the ancient world, were celebrated in caves and underground chambers. The philosopher Pythagoras is said to have received enlightenment in a cave. This idea of the grotto as a place of passage between worlds is reinforced by the imagery of Dionysiac craters, where caves represent sacred passages within which the initiation rites were performed.
Water: streams, lakes and fountains All the great gardens of the world feature water in one way or another — even the dry sand and rock gardens of Japanese Zen Buddhism represent water symbolically in the form of raked lines in the sand. In many cultures water represents not only physical but also spiritual The symbolic language of gardens 13 nourishment. Labyrinths and mazes The labyrinth is one of the most ancient and ubiquitous of motifs.
It is found on megalithic tombs, on Babylonian clay tablets, scratched as graffiti on the walls of Pompeii — and of course in countless gardens. It is a multivalent symbol, akin to the mandalas of Hindu and Buddhist tradition. In some traditions it is a protective device for deterring intruders or evil spirits. In others it represents an initiatory journey to the centre of oneself or a pilgrimage to the true source of spiritual truth through the snares and distractions of the world. The psychologist C. Jung saw it as one of the symbols of the collective unconscious, the inherited store of images that humanity carries in its common memory.
Labyrinths are liable to spring up in unexpected places — like the one that I and a group of friends came upon one twilight winter afternoon in Prague. We walked through it conscientiously, tracking back and forth between the white lines until finally we stood at the centre where a kind of rose cross bloomed. I was glad of this experience, as when I visited Chartres the labyrinth was always covered by chairs. Another labyrinth, or maze, that stands out in my memory is the one in the gardens of Hampton Court Palace, where the heroes of Three Men in a Boat succeed in getting lost.
Another legend is that of the Trojan 14 Gardens of the Gods: Myth, Magic and Meaning horse, filled with armed men, pulled by the unsuspecting inhabitants through the city, which was itself a kind of labyrinth. The ancient Egyptians built tombs of labyrinthine design, and the prehistoric Britons constructed maze-like earthworks, such as the one at Maiden Castle in Dorset.
Apart from these physical mazes there exists the tradition of the maze dance, different varieties of which are found in cultures from Bavaria to the Pacific, where the dancers thread their way through a labyrinth marked out on the ground or in some cases an imaginary one. The Chartres labyrinth is an example of how the tradition has been linked with Christianity, but the practice of cutting mazes into rock or shaping them in turf existed in Europe long before the coming of Christianity. A number of beautiful turf mazes are preserved in Britain, including those at Wing in Buckinghamshire, Hilton in Huntingdonshire and Saffron Walden in Essex.
Britain also has many hedge mazes of various dates. The work took six years. The path leads symbolically through death and then into the garden of paradise. Some of these have vanished, but many still survive. In choosing the design for a labyrinth they could look to examples in painting and also to those that abounded in the pages of practical manuals on horticulture. No doubt these mazes were often seen as playful follies, but some obviously had a serious symbolic purpose. Some fine examples of mazes also exist in North America. One of the most interesting was built at New Harmony, Indiana, a settlement founded in the early eighteenth century by a German Protestant sect, the Rappites, and later associated with the utopian socialist Robert Owen.
The Labyrinth represents the difficulty of arriving at harmony. The temple is rough on the exterior, showing that, at a distance, it has no allurements, but it is smooth and beautiful within to show the beauty of harmony when once attained. In the present day, mazes are enjoying a come-back, and there are now firms that specialize in creating them in gardens. We shall find further interesting examples of mazes from various periods in the gardens that will be described later.
Knot gardens One of the common features of formal gardens from the Renaissance onwards has been the knot garden, usually a square parterre incorporating a knot pattern laid out in clipped box or various lowgrowing plants. These knots range from the simple to the highly complex, and often they take the form of a continuous line with no beginning or end, looping and interweaving with itself like the shapes that one finds on ancient Celtic monuments. The knot is one of the oldest and most multivalent symbols known to humanity.
It can represent, among other things, binding and its opposite, loosing , commitment, fidelity the marriage knot , protection, infinity the figure of eight is a simple closed knot , cyclical processes and the complications and entanglements of life. In many cultures that have created gardens, animals have been seen as part of the pattern of meaning.
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In Japan the white crane is considered a symbol of good fortune and the upward flight of the spirit, but more common creatures also have their mythological and symbolical associations. Birds in general are found in both Eastern and Western traditions as intermediaries between earth and heaven. The bee is allegorical of many things, including virtuous toil, the descent of the soul to earth, the principle of royalty, as well as poetry and eloquence.
The butterfly is also an ancient symbol of the soul, and the spider of perseverance and of fate. The tortoise, which used to be a familiar sight in many a suburban garden in some countries its import is now banned , is among other things the bearer of the cosmos itself. The element of play In our quest for meaning in gardens we should not be too solemn.
Playfulness is a highly important and recurrent element that is very often present in gardens as part of the fabric of meaning or as a kind of background music that brightens and enhances the mood of the observer. Many gardens have a distinctly playful, Alice in Wonderland quality and at the same time are places of profound meaning. The garden as initiatory journey Many of the motifs described above feed into the idea of the garden as a place that offers an initiatory journey, so that when someone The symbolic language of gardens 17 walks through it they come away uplifted or transformed in some way.
It is in this spirit that we can now proceed to look at specific gardens and gardening traditions in various regions of the world and at different times in history. It ranges from the immensities of an imperial hunting estate to a handful of miniature plants on a window ledge, and from the luxury of a lakeside pavilion designed for sensual pleasure or poetic inspiration to the serenity of a garden in a Taoist or Buddhist monastery.
By the same token, many different religious, spiritual and philosophical traditions have influenced the development of Chinese gardens. One of the oldest and most influential of these is the tradition of the Immortals, or Hsien, a group of half-human, half-divine beings who possessed the secret of eternal life. Another account placed them on three mysterious islands in the eastern sea, which always melted away in the mist when they were approached. Balancing theThe forces symbolic of nature: language Chinese of and gardens Japanese gardens 19 Beyond them arose distant views of the hunting parks.
A barbarian shaman advised on the necessary techniques for creating suitably potent buildings. The devices he recommended included a revolving weather-vane and a maze of corridors and pavilions with no fewer than a hundred doors and a thousand windows. On high columns, statues of the Immortals held up bowls to catch the dew. Indeed, this is one of the purposes of all traditional Chinese gardens, as Pierre and Susanne Rambach argue in their book Gardens of Longevity.
Hence the great care that is taken to ensure the right flow of vital energies in the landscape. In his garden, his private realm of longevity, Chinese man saw to it that the flow of these vital energies should be visible or traceable water, stone, vegetation and in the man-made elements pavilions, walls, bridges, bases and lattices.
In this way he was able to revitalize himself through the outflow of energies from the elements around him. To attain longevity, it is of the utmost importance for a man to keep his garden in good working order by unrelaxing care and upkeep. When tree growth is no longer controlled, when the flow of water dries up, and the stones are loosened and scattered, then the garden dies and man can no longer benefit from it. If a landscape or garden is considered inauspicious for its owner it can be altered, often at great effort, to give it the right geomantic characteristics, which could include compass alignments and the positioning of mountains, rivers, lakes, buildings and other features.
A spectacular example of applied geomancy was the park created by the Emperor Hui-tsung — AD at Kaifeng. When Hui-tsung 20 Gardens of the Gods: Myth, Magic and Meaning came to the throne at the age of 26 he was worried by the fact that he had no sons, and he called in his geomancers for advice. They concluded that the land to the north-east of the imperial capital was too flat. It needed a mountain to provide the right kind of energy to ensure male succession.
An important influence on Chinese geomancy and garden design is the religion of Taoism, dating from about the fifth century BC. It is essentially this philosophy that lies behind the medical system known as acupuncture — indeed there are many similarities between acupuncture and geomancy. Taoism is a holistic philosophy which sees no separation between spirit and matter, heaven and earth, the world of nature and the world of human beings. All of nature — animal, vegetable or mineral — is alive, and the contemplation of nature, with its continual cycles of change, is for the Taoist an important form of meditation.
Consequently, in China wild landscapes were being admired, painted, described in poetry and recreated many centuries before the English aristocracy began to imitate the beauty of untamed nature. One of the purposes of the Taoist garden is to enable a person to glimpse, within a confined space, the oneness of all things and the mysterious workings of the Tao. When choosing where to place a garden, a building or an entire city, the Chinese often favoured a terrain sheltered on three sides by high ground forming a pattern like a horseshoe or the back and arms of an easy chair.
This was thought to be particularly pleasing to the Balancing theThe forces symbolic of nature: language Chinese of and gardens Japanese gardens 21 spirits of the ancestors, whose tombs formed an important feature of any city. In applying geomancy to architecture and garden design, the Chinese have tended to follow two different schools of thought: one emphasizing intuition and a felt rapport with the site; the other highly systematic and involving the application of intricate geomantic compasses and elaborate rules of placement and alignment. The two methods often merge and complement each other, and examples of both can be seen today in the gardens of China as well as Japan.
Another contrast typical of China is between the straight line and the curve or between the square and the circle.
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Looking at the ground plans of Chinese towns or palace complexes, one sees a mass of interconnected rectangles. Similarly, many gardens are divided up into numerous walled compartments, each one leading into another, so that when one emerges one has the illusion of having passed through a much larger area and that there is still more to see.
However, offsetting the rectangular elements are cultivated areas where curves and natural lines dominate. One could also see this contrast as corresponding to the polarity between earth and heaven earth square, heaven round and between the masculine and feminine modes in Chinese culture. Confucianism, with its emphasis on hierarchy, social order and correct behaviour, can be characterized as masculine, whereas Taoism, with its fluid, feeling approach to life, can be seen as closer to the feminine pole.
Thus, a Confucian house will often be juxtaposed with a Taoist garden. Here we shall find a parallel in the West, where in certain societies a freer rein was permitted in the garden than within the confines of the house. The way in which the garden resolves this dilemma is twofold: it tries to incorporate every bit of experience into a tight space; and it restlessly oscillates between polar opposites, the yin and the yang, the solid and the void.
At first glance Hong Kong is the epitome of urban modernity, with its forest of skyscrapers along the harbour, its shops and markets overflowing with everything from state-of-the-art computers to jade ornaments, the endless commercial bustle, the bumper-to-bumper traffic filling the hot, humid air with petrol fumes — all the throbbing, pulsating life of a Chinese version of New York. But a closer look reveals another side to the city.
Hidden away in a side street or suburb you may find a temple dedicated to one or more of the endless number of Chinese deities, where huge burning spirals of incense hang from the ceilings, filling the air with smoke, while around the sanctum fortune-tellers ply their trade and worshippers shake yarrow stalks to consult the I Ching oracle.
And look at the headquarters of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, an aggressively functional building, all grey tubular steel, glass and girders, designed in the s by the British architect Norman Foster. But note the traditional lion statues at the entrance and the curious angle of the escalator ascending through the vast atrium — these again betray the work of the geomancers. The nearby and even more futuristic building of the rival Bank of China, designed by the Chinese-American architect I.
Pei and erected slightly later, has been accused of using geomancy in a negative way. In fact, virtually every building erected in Hong Kong has to have the approval of the geomancers before it can proceed. And the same of course applies to gardens and parks. Balancing theThe forces symbolic of nature: language Chinese of and gardens Japanese gardens 23 The location of Hong Kong itself meets several basic feng shui criteria for a favourable position.
The site must be protected from strong winds and should ideally be near water, because the Dragon will move forward until it reaches the boundary of land and water, where it will halt and energy will accumulate. The site should also have natural shelter on four sides, represented by four auspicious animals: in front, the Phoenix or Red Bird; behind, the Black Tortoise; on the left the Green or Blue Dragon; and on the right the White Tiger. If one faces south, Hong Kong, together with Kowloon across the harbour, are protected from behind by the mountain ranges of the New Territories.
On the left they are sheltered by Kowloon Peak, on the right by the peak of Lantau Island, and to the front by Victoria Peak. The five points of the compass are one of the key factors in the feng shui system, that is north, south, east, west and centre, and the intermediate directions down to a few degrees. Ideally a site should face south, since that is where the main flow of energy comes, as from the Sun at midday in midsummer.
South, and not north, is the main direction of alignment in the Chinese compass. Linked with the points of the compass are a great variety of other factors such as the four auspicious animals already mentioned, the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, the five elements fire, earth, water, wood and metal , the eight trigrams of the I Ching divinatory system, the seasons of the year and various astrological factors. To take bearings on objects in a landscape, highly complicated compasses are used, with anything from nine to 36 concentric rings indicating the animals, elements and other factors associated with the compass points.
The forces flowing through a site and the way they influence the occupants will also vary with time and with the individual. Through a calculation involving the birth year, each person can be assigned a number from one to nine, corresponding to one of the directions or sub-directions of the compass, including the centre. Depending on the 24 Gardens of the Gods: Myth, Magic and Meaning personal number, certain directions will be more favourable than others, and this too will affect the alignment of a house and the landscaping of the site around it.
Such considerations can become extremely important when, for example, determining the position for a grave. Thus the art of feng shui involves taking into consideration a large number of factors, directional, geographical, meteorological, numerological and personal. Mountains and hills, provided they are not too sharp or precipitous, are favourable, as they are sources of Yang energy and can play a protective role.
Trees, preferably evergreens, can play the same role in the absence of mountains. Sometimes a single, carefully placed evergreen will be known as a feng shui tree. The tradition of bonsai trees is also based on Taoism. The same applies to miniature rocks and mountains. It is therefore not surprising to find bonsai in places of worship.
Many illustrations of Chinese gardens also show pots containing bonsai plants — sometimes several set on a small, low table, like a miniature garden within the garden. An old Chinese text known as the Water Dragon Classic recommends that an ideal site should rest among watercourses, protected in the stomach of the Dragon.
It also explains how the shapes created by watercourses and their branches and tributaries can have different influences, favourable and unfavourable, and where a house should be placed in relation to the water. Taking the elements, for example, some watercourses or hills will represent fire, others water, etc. And, since the elements influence each other both positively and negatively, it is very important how they are juxtaposed.
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Fire, for instance, destroys metal, and therefore a fire-shaped river next to a metal-shaped hill would be undesirable. On the other hand, since metal produces water, a metal-shaped stream flowing into a water-shaped one would be favourable. These are sometimes at rest, as we see them in the sky, sometimes moving invisibly around the cosmos, affecting human affairs. Each of these stars has a corresponding shape of hill or mountain. A sharply pointed hill, for example, would represent Lien-chen, the star of Purity and Truth, and thus would encourage these qualities.
The art of the geomancer therefore consists partly in reading the complex message of a site and partly in advising how to adapt and shape the site so as to gain the maximum advantage from it. While I did not have time to see any of the older Chinese gardens, I took the opportunity to visit the new Kowloon Walled City Park, constructed in —95 on the cleared site of the old Walled City, which had become a slum area. In the blistering summer heat it was a relief to escape from the concrete canyons of Kowloon into this peaceful oasis.
On this basis they had decided to adopt the Jiangnan garden style of the early Qing dynasty. They had included a garden of the Chinese Zodiac, with sculptures of the 12 zodiacal animals: tiger, hare, dragon, serpent, horse, sheep, monkey, hen, dog, pig, rat, ox. These sculptures had been positioned according to feng shui principles. The Kowloon Walled City Park therefore provides an excellent opportunity to see many features of the classical Chinese garden brought together in one place.