Here is another question for you: what is the difference between a garden and a picture?
The answer is whether it can change. The vegetation in a garden grows and changes every moment. This is reality. A picture, on the other hand, is a fantasy that snips off a moment in time and preserves it for all eternity. Motonobu-no-Niwa Garden was created to be like such a picture. It was not designed by a gardener, but rather by a painter named Motonobu Kano, who was heralded as a master painter during the Muromachi Period. Striving for a permanent beauty that stays the same no matter the time of year, he planted evergreens in the garden,thus attempting to realize his fantasy of a garden frozen in time.
While designing the garden, Motonobu composed a painting, and it is said that this garden is a three-dimensional reproduction of it. Motonobu was 70 years old when art began to mimic nature. However, as a ripened painter, Motonobu departed from this idea by making nature mimic art instead—a truly fascinating idea.
Did you know that the gardens in traditional Zen Buddhist temples usually lack flowers? Let’s think about why.
Zen gardens value beauty that is “evergreen.” In the past, remaining unchanged was a sign of status. Blooming flowers catch our eyes, and even today we treasure cherry blossoms and autumnal leaves. But their beauty is short-lived; we can enjoy them for, at most, a mere two weeks. In contrast, a garden of evergreens is beautiful throughout all four seasons, and in the past, it was this sort of beauty that was revered.