Zen and the Japanese Garden
This research seminar is designed in an effort to offer students an opportunity to examine Zen (Ch'an) Buddhism through a focused study of Japanese garden design and its relationship to architectural structure. Central to this topic is an understanding of Zen Buddhism as an outgrowth of earlier Buddhist thought in both India and China; of the relationship between Shinto and Zen; and of the garden as a significant manifestation of these complementary belief systems. The ultimate goal of this course will be to develop an understanding and appreciation of the continually evolving Japanese aesthetic through an examination of Japanese ma, or space, and the Zen concept of mu, or void. How these concepts relate to the spirit of sacrality of place and the symbolic language of various garden elements will serve to underline the traditional nature of Japanese culture and introduce the student to its rich literary and mythological character. Student oral and written projects will focus on specific aspects of both ancient and contemporary Japanese garden designs.