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Japanese Garden - Expo Vienna 1873

Japanese Garden at the Exhibition Expo Vienna 1873

In the park to the right of the Exhibition, not far from the pavilion of the Viceroy of Egypt, is the Japanese garden, with its houses, its little miniature river, over which a tiny bamboo bridge is thrown.

The entrance is on the side of the flower exhibition: two poles, supporting long strips of painted paper, invite you to enter this section where the strange is mixed with the fantastic.

To the left of the entrance is a bronze bell carried on wooden columns; Japanese bells have no clappers; they are struck with a horizontally suspended beam, which is pushed and held in the manner of ancient rams.

The sound thus produced is not as clear as in Japan, but fuller, softer and more intense.

The material is of such good quality that for a long time it was exported to Europe in large quantities.

The paths are lined with small stones of different colours; trees which in our climate are renowned for their size, such as the oak and the fir, are represented by dwarfs of an original effect. It is a special taste of the Japanese to have completely stunted species in their gardens. They have procedures for restricting the growth of trees and forcing them to remain small. They are delighted when they can reduce an oak tree to the height of a rose bush.

All the paths are suitably lined with bamboo, and in the middle of the rocks, artfully grouped, stand a few bronzes, some brightly coloured pottery placed on terracotta pedestals.

A temple rises on the edge of the river, ornamented with the national taste, i.e. with paintings representing protective Gods and fantastic chimeras.

Stone lanterns, of very different shapes, are to be found to the right and left of the temples; these lanterns are the obligatory ornament of all Japanese gardens and are often of great value. Paper lanterns are placed on them, and their light is seen through openings in the stone.

A bridge, very light, is placed on the river, which is rather a stream; it allows to visit the Japanese house and the two kiosks which decorate the garden.

At the top of the mast, the famous paper fish is swinging, which unrolls, inflates and deflates at the slightest breeze.

This fish represents a carp with remarkable muscular strength, which enables it to swim up streams and even waterfalls. This paper fish is placed on the roof of the house on the occasion of a great festival which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month, the festival of the boys. It is a symbol of strength.

This symbolic fish is also hoisted above the houses where a boy is born during the year.

To see these shriveled trees, these kiosks, these lanterns, one would think one was transported to one of the pretty villas built on the hill overlooking Yokohama.

The Emperor and Empress of Austria have deigned to inaugurate, by their presence, this Japanese garden where the flora bends to the most whimsical whims, and the public rushes every day to admire these dwarf trees, which are always a subject of astonishment, as well as the Japanese house with its paper hangings, its paper blinds and its carpets, always of paper, without the paper of the lanterns, whose transparency allows one to admire its paintings varnished with an eminently Japanese art.

©L’Exposition Universelle de Vienne 1873