Review Of "Reading Zen In The Rocks: The Japanese Dry Landscape Garden" By F. Berthier, Translated By G. Parkes

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Berthier's essay is the best concise summation on the noted rock garden of Ryôanji in Kyoto. It is accurate in critical assessment, thorough in historically situating the garden, and readable as well as brief (57 pages of text with adequate illustrations). Berthier (Japanese art and history, Institut Nationale des Langues et Civilisations Orientales, Paris) speculates, by elimination rather than by any convincing deduction, that one Kotaro, a garden laborer, was largely responsible for the unique design. The text, though well researched, gives no sources. The appended essay by translator Parkes, "The Role of Rock in the Japanese Dry Landscape Garden," is actually longer than Berthier's. Rather than an exegesis on the main text as he may have meant it to be, it takes its own course as a rumination on the loose parallel between the Zen in the Japanese rock garden and the philosophical tradition in the West from Goethe to Emerson and Nietzsche. His attempt to relate the Chinese rock garden to the Japanese repeatedly backfires by reinforcing the differences established by Berthier. The discussion of landscapes as Sutras in the Buddhism of Kûkai and Dôgen is, however, apt, and the invocation of Ozu's filmic scenes inspired. General readers; undergraduates.


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