Shoyoan was built in 1987 through the generosity of Mansfield Freeman, a graduate of Wesleyan University in 1916, whose endowment established the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies. The garden was constructed in 1995, with further gifts from the Freeman family and the encouragement of Mr. Freeman's son, Houghton Freeman. Planned from the start as an educational resource, the ensemble provides a tangible means of experiencing Japanese aesthetics and exploring the cultural values that these spaces embody. The room and garden are actively used for a wide variety of purposes, ranging from meetings of small classes and Japanese tea ceremonies to quiet contemplation and meditation.
Shoyoan Teien is an intimately scaled courtyard garden, designed to be viewed from a stationary location. This garden is a karesansui (dry landscape) garden centering on a series of abstract forms that allude to features from the local landscape including the Connecticut River and rolling hills of the region. Stone in the garden was salvaged from nearby brownstone quaries.
Shoyoan received a Green Dove Awared from Common Boundary, a Bethesda, Maryland-based organization dedicated to "exploring psychology, spirituality, and creativity." In making the award, Common Boundary said the garden "stood out for its sheer beauty" and the way it "addresses the interface of ecology, psychology, and spirituality by exploring the relationship between humans and our natural environment."
From the web site:
"The Freeman garden was designed and built in summer 1995 by Steven A. Morrell, a landscape architect specializing in Japanese-style gardens. His earlier public projects have included meditation gardens for Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper, New York, and Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, as well as a tea garden exhibition for the New York Japan Society. Since 1981, he has been Curator of the John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden in Mill Neck, New York.
"Shoyoan Teien falls within the tradition of the viewing garden, one intended primarily for contemplative viewing from within an adjoining roomor from a veranda or bench just outside. Unlike the more expansive strolling garden, which presupposes a moving viewer and sequential experience of shifting views, an intimately scaled courtyard garden like Shoyoan Teienis designed to disclose its full panorama to a stationary visitor seated at its edge. The tradition of the viewing garden has a long history in Japan, attaining its classic formulation in the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century gardens of such Zen monasteries as Ryoanji and Daitokuji in Kyoto.
Shoyoan Teien embodies the aesthetic of the "dry-landscape" (karesansui),which centers on the use of suggestively laid courses of gravel to evoke a sense of water, flowing through raked patterns of ripples and waves. As is often the case in Japanese gardens, the landscape is not a completely idealized one, but contains a number of forms that alude to prominent featuresof the local environment. Here, the turning course of the raked gravelis meant to evoke the bend in the Connecticut River as it flows through Middletown, while the undulating clusters of Mugo pine on the farther banksuggest the gently rolling hills of the region. Similarly, the stone used in the garden is brownstone, salvaged from the old brownstone quarries across the river in Portland.
In 1996, the Freeman garden received the Green Dove Award from Common Boundary, a Bethesda, Maryland-based organization dedicated to "exploring psychology, sprituality, and creativity." In making the award, Common Boundary said the garden "stood out for its sheer beauty" and the way it "addresses the interface of ecology, psychology, and spirituality by exploring therelationship between hymans and our natural environment."
Saihoji Temple, Kyoto
Actuality is emblem here: a walled-in garden
With its hieroglyph of the heart a lake with lotuses,
And its stones and trees a figure of ascent
From painted maze and sensuous paradise
To the Pure Land of the mind, the interior garden.
All paths wind inward to this inward mirror --
Reflecting-pool of primitive solitude --
Where the mind, quiescent, meditates its shadow,
In the garden's Heart this cipher of the heart.
Some bonze cropped bald by wisdom's scythe, to glean
In Chinese glaosses on the Sakya sage
Reality's scattered kernels, planted here
A green and less laborious commentary:
Perpetual witness of the perfect stillness.
Only the moss speaks still, a living scroll;
From the lakeshore to the hillside a silver-green
Page of continuous discourse where the foot moves
More soundlessly that thought along the paths laid
Over ten centuries ago
For the saints rehearsing sutras.
Their path unfolding in a single text,
They moved on an obscure way more quietly
Than the arhat's mantras or the lohan's prayer;
And bruised no stone, no grasses in their passing,
The ground of their desire inviolate.
Nameless, they merged into indifferent turf,
Engrossed in one impartite grace of green,
Their separate deaths lost in this single life --
Men without memory, without distinction.
Though earth assumes them like a scroll rolled up,
The path is fragrant still because they passed here.