| "How to Make
a Japanese Dish-Garden" by Marion Brownfield (1921):
The Japanese art of making a dish-garden
or Hachi-Niwa is as unique as it is picturesque. Imagine a
miniature landscape perfectly carried out in a shallow dish or bowl measuring
anywhere from six inches to two feet, and you will know what the Japanese
dish-garden is. No wonder it is called landscape gardening in a teaplate!
Many of these tiny gardens can be set with perfect ease on a tea-tray.
The idea, it is said, was borrowed from China [sic].
Such a miniature garden is particularly
charming for the porch, paved court, or window ledge, where growing green
things are limited, or where winter cheer is desired.
As far as possible, these tiny
landscape gardens are reproductions of some admired bit of Japanese scenery,
for all Japanese gardens of the real native type, large or small, are imitations
of a natural landscape made supremely artistic by their clever ‘improvement
of art over nature!’
For Americans the artistic possibilities
of a dish-garden are great. Why cannot we carry out in the same way
some beloved scene of our native landscape? On vacations and excursions
into the country it is possible, not only to gather the inspiration for
some exquisite scene from nature, but also to gather the materials to carry
out a miniature landscape which we have enjoyed.
Such things as moss of every variety,
lichens, and tiny pebbles of various shapes and colorings are all part
of a typical Japanese dish-garden, and quite easily obtained on a jaunt
into the country.
The correct dish to grow this
kind of a garden in, Japanese style, consists of blue mottled or plain
white china that measures approximately eight by twelve inches, and is
one inch deep. The shape of this shallow dish may be oval, round
or square, but with the Japanese is most often oval.
Damp earth makes the foundation
for whatever scene is decided upon. All the scenery – mountains,
hills, cascades, and brooks – is next carefully molded, and then covered
with whatever material seems most natural, whether it is moss, sand, or
pebbles. Sand is often arranged to flow down between rocks to imitate
a rushing mountain torrent! Next are placed the stones which are
part of every Japanese garden and full of symbolic meaning according to
their shape, color, and position. The three chief stones used in
these garden basins represent Heaven, Earth, and Mankind [sic].
The best that the American can do is to use stones to make as artistic
an effect as possible, unless a picture of a Japanese garden or landscape
is exactly copied. After the garden stones are placed comes the placing
of miniature Japanese bridges, homes, teahouses, or such bits as make a
picture. Trees are now planted. In Japan these are most frequently
dwarf maples and pines – the last being a good luck tree for every Japanese
garden. Bamboo is also much seen in Japanese gardens and is easily
grown in this country. But we can just as effectively use ferns,
willow cuttings, or anything that takes our fancy and is in good proportion
to represent a tree!
Last of all comes more sand of
every possible kind – each variety, of course, to represent different parts
of a real landscape. White powder is sometimes used for a snow scene,
as snow-capped Fujiyama, the sacred mountain of Japan, is a favorite scene
to carry out in a Japanese landscape garden – large or small.
Probably for Americans the Japanese
prints offer good suggestions for making these original and artistic little
gardens. The spirit of them is a Japanese precept in art – perfect
proportion. To make them most charming they must be kept very wet,
so that the velvety green mosses will be as verdant as a real landscape
And it is interesting to know
that celebrated Japanese artists have designed prints especially to be
copied for these toy gardens, and that the making of them is an artistic
hobby, equally popular with the gentle upper-class ladies of Tokyo, great
statesmen, poets, and writers! 1