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A Zen Life in Nature
MusŰ Soseki in His Gardens
by Andrew Keir Davidson
  • Examines the design style of the medieval Japanese Zen monk MusŰ Soseki (1275-1351), who built gardens as places of meditation and contemplation

  • Reveals the spiritual and cultural influences that are crucial to understanding Sosekiís aesthetic and design sense
  • Concludes with a detailed look at the beautiful Upper Garden at Saihoji, built by Soseki in 1339.

"The lived-life of MusŰ is rendered in exquisite detail through compelling writing revealing the spirit of MusŰ embodied as the still vibrant, deeply-affecting gardens with which he remains associated ... This is an extraordinary book, an innovative approach to researching and writing about still-venerated Buddhist temple gardens of Japan ... Indeed, this highly-recommended book itself is a pregnant space where innovative conceptions of garden take life."
from a review by Norris Brock Johnson in Religious Studies Review 34:2008.

This book examines the design style of the medieval Japanese Zen monk MusŰ Soseki (1275-1351), who built gardens as places to meditate and to escape his busy public life. A Zen Life in Nature begins with a discussion of Sosekiís rural upbringing and the spiritual background to it, his quest for enlightenment as a Zen monk and his role as mediator in the turbulent times that surrounded the Kemmu Restoration and the establishment of the Ashikaga shogunate. Other chapters look at the spiritual and cultural influences that are crucial to understanding Sosekiís aesthetic and design sense and the development of his garden building. Finally, the book provides a detailed look at the beautiful Upper Garden at Saihoji, built by Soseki in 1339.

The author Andrew Keir Davidson, a landscape gardener for many years, has published three previous books on the planning and construction of gardens and on Zen gardening: Simple Garden Construction (1980, with Daniel Roberts), Zen Gardening (1982), and Garden Planning and Construction (1983, with Daniel Roberts).

Published by Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan
Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies # 56
Published 2007, 297 pp., illustrated
ISBN 978 1 929280 37 7, hardback, £35.00
 ISBN
978 1 929280 41 4, paperback, £15.99