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Mountain group location

Started by John Austin, October 17, 2015, 04:14:50 AM

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John Austin

I am building a karesansui in my garden in Quinninup, WA. This is being made in the 2:1 rectangle between the paths from the verandah to the darkroom. Please see attached image, if it works

As WA is in the southern hemisphere, does the rule against putting tall rocks in the north east quarter apply, or is is the other way 'round in the southern hemisphere?


John.. welcome...
... the 'fusui (var. fengshui)' convention you are referring to, in this case has a specific origin of the mongol hordes (northwest, north and north east) that as a solution included quicksand, therefore negative forces, invading Japan, this could be a seasonal typhoon just as easily... and applies to what direction they are invading from.. this was transferred later to include and refer to 'all evil and ill things' coming from what quadrant and was variable and often specific to the site.
if your text is referring to vertical stones then these would also be 'guardians as a stone setting' and be the Diamond Kings rather than Buddha (sanzon setting)

you would decide where the evil or ill is entering (and what is best for a stable, stalwart and protective position)

the second parameter of this equation is where the mountain mandala originates... eg: other religion but applicable.. is the question of "where is Mecca", and should one adhere to this, and is it applicable. That is a personal choice.

AND, that would depend on the way in which you are using the karesansui 'space'.. the 'dry-garden space' and if you are using a 'sanzon' triad setting (depicts Buddha as you know) or whether you would be working toward a 'concept' idea such a Ryoanji that involves the viewer. (is this garden personal only to you or do you wish to also engage your visitors, family or more people than just you
this is the design question for yourself)

Freedom of design in Japan was gained when the dark gravel 'rain cleansing area' (the 8 to 12 inch dark gravel runoff eaves area) was installed around the inner courtyard gardens, because of its origin as the iconic amulet personal protection border woven on kimono sleeves. This also means there are ways to do this and ways not to do this... gotta love those rules.. ;)

the most important of all of these parameters is to design the setting in such a way, that the triangle 'spread' in the 2:1 rectangle offers the feeling that you wish to convey.. therefore a complementary math that works with the 2:1 ratio... and that the primary placements, benefit your primary view...
(ie: adhering to the 'invasion principle' may lead to feelings of anxiety by conveying too much protection within a 'stiff' mathematical 2:1 form stiff + stiff = anxiety..)

short form.. make the settings work for your main views (house / yard /), just as the priests made new rules to get what they wanted as well.. its the 'how you do it' that matters...
and the overall 'best solution for the setting comes first.. then call the fusui specialist to fix whatever is wrong..

   what will the setting convey? what is your wish?         .. interesting question.. thanks..   edzard

John Austin

Dear Edzard,

Thank you for your clear and extensive reply. Rain and storms come from our southwest quadrant in winter, but the threat of fire is from the east in summer

The 2:1 ratio was determined by the location of the veranda, the shed that houses the darkroom and an existing garden bed with bay and other perennial herbs

So far I have made some sketches and rolled the rocks around while I am digging the garden out. The currently planned arrangement has grown out of looking good

More pictures later
Quinninup, Western Australia

John Austin

PS, Edzard

You asked what the garden is intended to display

As we live in the forest we have no horizon, there is stuff all around us, towering karri and marri trees in a relatively flat landscape. I want a tiny patch to give an illusion of mountains and space

For some background please see https://vimeo.com/73927350


John..  8)    ----- do I ever have a job for you at JGO whenever this needs to be added to...
         "I live off my silver gelatine print sales, my pensions and my mind, all hopelessly inadequate"

still laughing... I have just decided to add another 100 years to my lifespan so that i can catch up to what you know..
I might need a hundred and fifty.. to be discussed...

and then NOT laughing... positively not laughing but very impressed..
... that video is appropriately disturbing and very well done...
and familiar..

-- an effort to understand your view on garden for your space, 'how you see' ...
on one page I saw a coloured photo of the diverse woodland.
the question I pose is, would the Vimeo experience be more graphically .. ah,.. bloody, if the 'life is colour' perception is applied in the 'virgin' forest views with the aftermath in 'non-life*' black & white... ?
(* non-life could be discussed, I try to imply Life is colour, lack of colour is Death.)

so comparatively... you have the same patterns as the colour photo, but you see in black and white as a 'pattern language'         ?   

I need better words,.. but in your words..
--what is framing, as rather than to look at your mountains and space, one needs to design 'with' the patterns that frame that brings in the scope of your vision that you wish to feel (or feeling you wish to envision).. 

What is the "relative relationship between the mountains and space and the background"..
and most often we just put up a fence to block the neighbour..

observation offered:
garden is top down, from horizon blue sky to top of tree. That determines what and where things are in the garden.
Under every V is a focal point to the human mind.. remove V's and focused points disappear.. and this is good.
and what you have, if I understand, is a screen of pattern in a understory of flatness..

and you wish to feel 'mountains and space'..

then you will be working with the V's in the forest patterns that mountains and space need to resonate; echo with, so that the background patterns do not overwhelm
or you need to make the choice to be non-fractal and 'clash or jar' with the surroundings..
either the first part of your video, or the second part of your video...
or, is there a point between?

I think one of my personal turning points for studying Japanese gardens, as gardens: why they are different, through the societal statements gardeners use, was an installation of a tree, hanging and dead... twigs roots and all suspended,.. absolutely dead... this was massive, a floating tree in a monolithic chamber of polished granite panels..  made it to the front page of Art in America... there was something to the irony I think that made me grin.. recollection is dim, I think it was in a the lobby of a paper processing plant and the caption should have read to the effect, "what we do to life".
and, by all definitions this suspended dead tree was functional as a genuine Japanese garden.

:. I need to ask, having viewed the video, is yours a statement garden or a feeling garden ?  Both?

please bring us up to where you are.. sketches would be of interest..
as well as your images of your 'mountains' and sense of space.
and your site is much neater than mine are..
            with appreciation..                 edzard

John Austin

I still work with large format cameras and black and white film. This attempt at a stitched image from my wife's discarded digital camera shows off my digital camera skills, or not

John Austin

PS, the garden is a mess, cement mixer and a pile of sand for Rae's shed/studio, "every country girl needs a shed". piles of bricks, ute, trailer and stuff, lots of stuff. Please excuse the mess


John.. thankyou..
I don't see anything but garden stuff and am an expert at not seeing my own.. :)
and yes.. if there is not garden shed for a country girl the brick and objects de country become projectiles and you will lose one of your sheds... I presume that to be the darkroom.

Black and white is a lot of work for the kind of photos needed and normally use b&w at the end to see the result of a garden. Textures and light refraction are critical.

I presume that to be a viewing window view.

and sketches...    your thoughts on what should be, to see how to make it happen..  thanks    edzard


Quote from: John Austin on October 18, 2015, 02:44:05 AM
PS, the garden is a mess, cement mixer and a pile of sand for Rae's shed/studio, "every country girl needs a shed". piles of bricks, ute, trailer and stuff, lots of stuff. Please excuse the mess
Thanks for including the work in progress pictures.  They are always the most informative.  I have yet to read the full thread.  Looking forward to it.

Welcome to the Forum! .... Michael in Seattle

John Austin


All the rocks resting up the slope, and the site cleaned for the weed-mesh and putting in the rocks in their right locations

Note the plan is modified, with the diagonal now going in the opposite direction and the tall triad now slightly to the right of centre rather than the left, as shown in this oldish plan


Great progress, John.  I would like to see the mixture of stone colors arranged together.  This is something i dont usually do, so i will be curious to see how it works!

Thanks for sharing,

John Austin

The stone colours are very similar, as they are all locally sourced stones from around Quinninup, apart from one from near Bremmer Bay, but that is also gneiss

(Sorry about the dreadful pun)




Before proceeding with the stone setting, encourage you to look beyond the back edge of your gravel space, and compare the ways in which karesansui gardens in Japan relate to the world beyond.  If you tilt your camera angle to align with the seated human viewing perspective, please discuss what you see in your space vs. images from Daitoku-ji, Daisen-in, Ryoan-ji etc.

To help, imagine your garden without the enclosing brick paths to the side and rear.  At present, the images appear to show a symmetrical series of brick-bordered spaces, as might be typical in a western vegetable or floral display garden.  Not sure from the photos, but it appears that the other bordered planter areas would remain (stitched photo)?  In an easy image search of karesansui in Japan, the ways in which karesansui is connected to the natural world seem widely varied, but always without clutter from other uses.  This singularity or cohesiveness of view is an important element, much as in photography.


John Austin

Thanks James

I have been considering the way the foreground will meld with the forest beyond, behind the rear brick path I have make a long mound of earth to hold suitable plants, 'though I don't yet know what, to be a lead up to the karri forest beyond. The bins on the slip road and piles of bricks and such will be moved as well

Also, I have just cleared stuff, lots of stuff, from the edge of the veranda so I can sit there to consider this sort of question. (Stuff seems to collect on the back verandah, tools and empty flower pots and stuff, mainly stuff)

As we seem to be on the full moon I will sit there now, thanks for putting the idea in my mind

The particular bit of forest beyond has amazing light about the solstices, as this picture from the top of the garden made years ago on a misty morning show