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Zen Landscapes

Perspectives on Japanese Gardens and Ceramics

 The essential elements of a dry Japanese garden are few: rocks, gravel, moss. Simultaneously a sensual matrix, a symbolic form, and a memory theater, these gardens exhibit beautiful miniaturization and precise craftsmanship. But their apparent minimalism belies a true complexity. In Zen Landscapes, Allen S. Weiss takes readers on an exciting journey through these exquisite sites, explaining how Japanese gardens must be approached according to the play of scale, surroundings, and seasons, as well as in relation to other arts—revealing them as living landscapes rather than abstract designs.
Weiss shows that these gardens are inspired by the Zen aesthetics of the tea ceremony, manifested in poetry, painting, calligraphy, architecture, cuisine, and ceramics. Japanese art favors suggestion and allusion, valuing the threshold between the distinct and the inchoate, between figuration and abstraction, and he argues that ceramics play a crucial role here, relating as much to the site-specificity of landscape as to the ritualized codes of the tea ceremony and the everyday gestures of the culinary table.
With more than one hundred stunning color photographs, Zen Landscapes is the first in-depth study in the West to examine the correspondences between gardens and ceramics. A fascinating look at landscape art and its relation to the customs and craftsmanship of the Japanese arts, it will appeal to readers interested in landscape design and Japan’s art and culture.

272 pages | 130 color plates, 20 halftones | 7 1/2 x 10 | © 2013



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“His text, illustrated with images so subtle you can scarcely tell if they are in colour or black and white, helps us move our understanding on a step. Rich in imagery and reference, it explores the interface between Japan’s gardens and the ceramics made both there and, in modern times, elsewhere. . . . A book to read time and again.” 

Historic Gardens Review

“The first in depth Western study that looks at the relationship that exists between gardens and ceramics, suggesting new theories of representation and, above all, presenting ideas that may change the way we view such places. . . . lush color photos.” 

Japan Times

“In this thoughtful work, Allen Weiss examines closely the relationship of elements found in a Japanese Zen garden. . . . Weiss is particularly sensitive to the role of different objects and features, creating what he calls a Gesamtkunstwerk, a ‘web of correspondences.’ . . . Excellent photographs of various features of Zen gardens illustrate the pages.” 

Chicago Botanic Garden

“One can learn a lot about Japanese art and culture from this well-illustrated, attractive book.” 

Garden Design Journal

Table of Contents

 Introduction: Transformations of Vision

1  Transient Symbols

2  On the Circulation of Metaphor

3  Zen Mountains, Zen Water

4  Cracks

5  Pottery Landscapes

6  The Tea Bowl and the Toilet Bowl

7  Impossible Possibles

Postscript: A Leaf


Select Bibliography


Photo Acknowledgements


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