Sunday, April 15, 2012

California's great Buddhist Garden (audio)

KPCC (; Ashley Wells, Seven, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly
The Huntington's Japanese garden bridge (Randysonofrobert/
The bridge a century ago (Ken Brown/; below: Huntington Library and Gardens (

THE HUNTINGTON ESTATE (Open to the public) - After a year-long, nearly $7 million renovation, the famed Japanese Garden at the Huntington Library is once again open. This is the centennial anniversary of the Japanese garden, which is one of the most popular areas of the picturesque Huntington property that sits along the border of Pasadena and San Marino.

The seed of the Huntington’s Japanese Garden is a love story. Jim Folsom is like the "bard of the botanical." He is director of the gardens and has there for nearly three decades. He explains how Henry Huntington built the Japanese Garden in part as a courtship offering: "That would be one nice summary of it. And it was so quaint and iconic, so exotic and picturesque," he says.

In the early 1900s, Japanese tea gardens had become quite fashionable and a fascination of the very wealthy. To impress the woman he wanted to marry, railroad magnate Henry Huntington literally pulled an entire Japanese garden from a nearby emporium and transplanted it to his San Marino estate.

The meditation deck, tea house, bridge, and idyllic grounds at the Huntington's Japanese garden (

“They built it through a simple expedient," Folsom explains. "There was an import business on the corner of California and Fair Oaks across from where Boston Market is today. It was a tea garden. And it was an emporium to sell Asian antiquities. Mr. Huntington bought the entire business and moved all the ornaments and the plants here."

So the Japanese Garden at the Huntington started blooming in 1912. And one year later, Henry married Arabella Yarrington. To this day, the garden view is like a romantic painting, dotted with ponds and purple wisteria dangling over trellises. There’s the moon bridge nestled in, and it’s all draped with a majestic view of the San Gabriel Mountains. LISTEN + PHOTOS

The Buddhist conception of the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, particularly in Japanese Buddhist iconography, shows barren and desolate scenes of deprivation coexisting with the Human Realm (blog.dwbuk org).

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