Review Of "Themes In The History Of Japanese Garden Art" By W. Kuitert

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For this volume, a revised dissertation from 1988, Dutch landscape architect Kuitert (Kyoto Univ. of Art and Design) kept the chapter organization intact but has thoroughly rewritten the text, restructured the paragraphs, increased the glossary six times, added the index, and supplied 25 judiciously chosen color photographs. The book remains unchanged in substance, but is now more readable. Kuitert discusses the Japanese garden in three historical phases: the Heian garden made to evoke literary themes, the Muromachi garden inspired by Chinese painting and therefore characterized as scenes, and the 17th-century garden associated with the tea ceremony and thus self-consciously aesthetic. His history rambles; but his erudition is surely formidable and his discussion of social and cultural contexts solid and thorough. His use of literary, documentary, and graphic sources is exemplary, and he is skillful in describing historic gardens. His interpretive comments are best in scattered nuggets. In one critical coup, he regards the notion of the Zen garden as a perceptual invention of the early Showa writers and questions its application to the Muromachi gardens of dry landscape; his argument is ingenious but does not quite hold water. Essential for landscape experts, historians, and Japan specialists. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through professionals.


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