You are on page 1of 3

notes & queries

L ETTER TO T H E E D ITOR
When an article based on a chapter from my book
Sharawadgi: The Romantic Return to Nature
(published the following year) appeared in this
journal, its then editor described its argument as
‘convincing’. 1 However, in his article ‘Japanese
robes, Sharawadgi, and the landscape discourse
of Sir William Temple and Constantijn Huygens’,
which was published in the last issue of Garden
History, Professor Wybe Kuitert asserts the
opposite, alleging that my reflections on the
‘meaning and origin of the term sharawadgi […]
lack conviction’: the reason given being that they
‘do not consider seventeenth-century sources’.
However, five of my nine chapters concern the
seventeenth century and all cite contemporary
sources. Kuitert, on the other hand, provides no
evidence for his assertion, merely referring to his
own forthcoming article. 2
Kuitert’s reading of sharawadgi as a
combination of share (refinement) and aji (taste)
is not original: I have cited the suggestion that
this was conflated with shorowaji (not being
regular). The case that Kuitert has to meet if he
omits the latter is the existence of a word which
not only means what Temple said it meant, but
has been triangulated with the time and location
of the Dutch settlement in Japan. 3 That this
should be coincidence seems incredible; but as
we shall see, Kuitert expects us to believe still
stranger propositions.
The question is not addressed in the essay
Kuitert credits with having ‘inspired’ him –
Makoto Nakamura’s ‘Sharawaji ni tsuite’. This
is a brief and avowedly tentative introduction
to the subject; and, as it was published in 1987,
was unavailable to me when in 1980 I began
the dissertation (on the ‘Intellectual origins of
the England landscape garden’, 1985) which
underlies my book. At that time, and indeed
for some time afterwards, a major obstacle to
identifying sharawadgi as Japanese was a general
belief among historians of architecture and
the garden (with the formidable support of Sir
Nikolaus Pevsner) that it was Chinese. That is
what Temple seemed to say, and which I explained
by referring to seventeenth-century sources. 4
Here again Kuitert puts forward an
alternative explanation: ‘In England, after
war with the Dutch, it was deemed safer to
distance oneself from these drunken and profane
merchants living on an “indigested vomit of the
Sea”.’ But if Temple was intimidated by prejudice
against the Dutch, why is so much of his writing

taken up with sympathetic accounts of them?
Kuitert went on:
Neither did Temple want to associate his
deviation from the classics of Vitruvius
by referring to something as light-hearted
as a robe from Japan […] Temple was
impressed by Chinese statesmanship and
Confucianism; these were the things he
liked to associate with his understanding
of sharawadgi.
This is not original either and the conspiracy
theory that has been woven into it seems both
implausible and superfluous.
Temple wrote: ‘And whoever observes the
work upon the best India gowns, or the painting
upon their best skreens or purcellans, will find
their beauty is all of this kind (that is) without
order.’ If China is camouflage for Japan, why
drag in India? The most natural reading, it still
seems to me, is that Temple speaks of Asian
design in general – a contention I have supported
from seventeenth-century sources, including a
visitor to Temple’s house and a book he is known
to have read, in which ‘India’ includes China and
Japan, and the two latter are interchangeable. 5
What is, in principle, novel and to be
welcomed is an attempt to expand the Dutch
context for Temple’s information, which has
long been acknowledged by those who accepted
a Japanese origin for the term. This Kuitert does
through consideration of Constantijn Huygens,
providing a plan of his garden – which, however,
shows it as uncompromisingly geometrical.
Nevertheless, Kuitert insists that the area within
the ‘blocks’ was ‘planted asymmetrically with
trees, as in an Italian bosco’. This hardly proves
Japanese influence: limited irregularity was
standard in the baroque garden, of which both
Temple and Addison had seen examples. What was
different about sharawadgi was that it involved
asymmetry throughout – in Temple’s phrase, was
embodied in gardens ‘wholly irregular’.
Kuitert cites Huygens on the asymmetrical
designs that adorned Japanese clothing; but this
hardly indicates support for them:
I ended up with the unequal of the
Japanese robe
The incomprehensible of its staining so
bewildered
That makes the dress a decoration, but
makes me ill at ease;

sharawadgi

129

And if I would happen to tread such paths,
Me thinks it would be like a gamble, or
whatever,
Where this tree would stand, or where
that path would end.
I would be discomfited, and where I came
to turn,
There would my head be turning, just like
the planter did
Who carelessly had everything diverged
from its correct position.

Littlefield, 1999), pp. 37–8, 273–5.
4
Ibid., pp. 33–5.
5
Ibid., pp. 33–5, 274.
6
I have devoted some space to this and
to its linkage with the worldview of the Tao,
as it affected Temple and Addison, as well as
Temple’s secretary and Addison’s friend, Swift;
ibid., pp. 131–66.
7
Ciaran Murray, Disorientalism: Asian
Subversions, Irish Visions (Tokyo: Asiatic
Society of Japan, 2009).

This sounds like a satire on sharawadgi, or at least
a sense of being dizzied by it; and Kuitert provides
no better evidence to the contrary than an assertion
that the kimono, since it was symmetrical in shape
though asymmetrical in pattern, ‘fitted precisely
what Huygens was aiming at in his garden with its
symmetric blocks of wilderness’. To describe this
as unconvincing would scarcely do justice to the
jugglery whereby a document is called in evidence
for its diametrical opposite. And in the end Kuitert
concedes of Temple: ‘Strikingly, he elevated lack
of order to the level of a taste in beauty, whereas
for Huygens the discussion was not much more
than a kind of explanatory apology for a design
idea’ – if it was that.
Kuitert further informs us that, in giving his
essay the title ‘Upon the Gardens of Epicurus’,
Temple alluded to ‘a non-Biblical, classical
philosophy’. He did a great deal more, if we
are to trust the seventeenth-century sources in
which ‘the arguments of Epicurus had returned
with new and terrible force’, consequent on the
discovery by Galileo of an asymmetrical universe.
It seems to me that if we are to account for the
reception of sharawadgi in England, we must
attempt to explain how the individuals concerned
could have felt affinity with it. 6
Kuitert’s article ends at the point where
Addison assimilated Temple’s information; but
the genius of Addison was that he transformed
it by means of a general aesthetic that fed into
Romanticism. One might envisage any number
of amplifications or further investigations. I
have attempted something of this sort tracing
sharawadgi and its sequels through the lens of
Irish literature and a similar volume from a Dutch
perspective might prove interesting. 7 Meanwhile,
Professor Kuitert has adduced nothing to alter the
conviction – tends, indeed, to intensify it – that
what matters about sharawadgi is what happened
to it in England.

RE P LY TO ‘ L ETTER TO T H E E D ITOR ’

c i a r a n m u r r ay

1429-395 Hatsuzawa, Hachioji, Tokyo 1930845, Japan. Email: ciaran@kd5.so-net.ne.jp
references
1

Ciaran Murray, ‘Sharawadgi resolved’,
Garden History, 26/2 (1998), pp. 208–13.
2
Wybe Kuitert, ‘Japanese art, aesthetics, and
a European discourse: unraveling Sharawadgi’,
Japan Review (in press).
3
Ciaran Murray, Sharawadgi: The Romantic
Return to Nature (Bethesda: Rowman &

Professor Ciaran Murray seems to remember
his own writing of 1999 much better than my
recent paper for this journal. As his critique
nevertheless departs from my words, my reply
needs to begin with the portent of the statements
that I made. By studying the history of gardens
we learn how intelligent persons dealt with their
living environment – Sir William Temple and his
good friend Constantijn Huygens in the case of
my paper under discussion. These men found
an opening in the rigid prescriptions of classical
garden design, proposing irregularity as a quality
of a garden landscape, or even as aesthetics to
strive for. I showed how Japanese robes form
the clue in understanding their courage to come
up with new ideas on beauty. Murray does not
seem familiar with this, nor does he seem to
realize the importance of Vitruvius in garden
history. In his garden plan Huygens proposed
perhaps the most literal application of Vitruvian
order in all of Europe’s architecture to that time.
However, he also discovered that trees do not
grow in squares and golden proportions. The
drawing of his son Constantijn Jr expresses this
even better than the words in his poem. There
is nothing Vitruvian about this ink sketch – it is
fully picturesque. The drawing is dated c.1660,
which makes it one of the earliest picturesque
expressions in garden representation in European
history. Huygens, always contemplating the
things he observed around him, was a literary
master when elaborating on perceptions. He
accommodated the two opposites of Vitruvian
order and the irregular picturesque by pointing
to the Japanese robe, which has an irregular
design on the symmetry of the sheets of its cloth –
similar to Huygens’s symmetric parcels cut from
the swampy soil of Holland on which his trees
grew freely in irregular forms.
Murray does not seem to get this idea,
although it is clearly demonstrated in the portraits
of one of Huygens’s sons and Temple, both dressed
in the same Japanese robe, known as an Indian
gown in England. Temple referred, in his famous
quote, to Indian gowns, and not to an ‘India gown’
as Professor Murray mistakenly states. Indian at
that time did not mean India but the Indies, in
particular the East Indies, which included Japan.
Much cheaper robes from India proper entered
Europe in the eighteenth century, but these were
not called Indian gowns. The background to these
portraits, as was usual at the time, relate to the

130

garden history

intellectual and spiritual spheres of the sitters:
a classic garden scene in the case of Huygens’s
son, a picturesque one for Temple. That shift is
discussed with ample evidence in my paper.
In my article I wrote: ‘Murray’s reports on
the meaning and origin of the term sharawadgi
do not consider seventeenth-century sources and
lack conviction.’ Murray evidently based his
definition on a verbal communication, which does
not satisfy me, even less so when it comes under
such a ringing title as ‘Sharawadgi resolved’. 1
Murray’s assertion is found in some more detail
in his paper for The Asiatic Society of Japan. 2
Here we can expect a profounder insight into the
meaning of the term sharawadgi, as readers of
this society’s journal will not shun a reference to
sources in Japanese or Chinese. However, Murray
refers again to the remarks of his informant who:
uttered the magic formula. Sorowaji
was indeed obsolete in the standard
language when Temple wrote; but it was
still current in Kyushu. Filter sorowaji
through the Kyushu dialect, and you get
shorowaji; filter this through Dutch, and
you get what Temple got: sharawadgi. 3
Apart from this magic formula, Murray gives no
other considerations or external evidence. His
book of 1999 is also silent on the meaning and
origin of the term, apart from the comments of
later English men of letters. One of these, Nikolaus
Pevsner, concluded with Susi Lang in 1949 that for
sharawadgi no trustworthy decoding as a Chinese
word exists. Even the Oxford English Dictionary
notes that sharawadgi does not belong to the
Chinese language. Anyway, the Japanese sorowaji,
as Murray correctly stated, was proposed in 1931
by E. V. Gatenby – but Gatenby only gave it one
sentence, again without any corroboration or
supporting evidence. In his writing on sharawadgi
Murray departs from this flimsy report, without
any source critique, and conflates it with the
magic of an oral communication. This is a serious
deficiency in scholarly method, as deduction and
analysis in history research goes hand in hand
with reviewed sources.
It is not the task of Garden History to write
on linguistics or the history of Japanese aesthetics
for which I refer to my upcoming paper in Japan
Review. 4 That sharawadgi was brought in by the
Dutch was suggested by Makoto Nakamura in
1987. This source was admittedly unavailable to
Murray in 1980 when he began his dissertation,
published in 1985. However, his book appeared in
1999, so one would have expected further research
to have been conducted between 1980 and 1999,
which would have revealed sources on the topic
in English, including some referencing Nakamura.
Temple distanced himself from the Dutch
because it would have undermined the standing
of his rather pompous Upon the Gardens. Indeed,
I agree, in other more factual or historical
writings he seemed quite impressed by things
and people Dutch, like he admired Dutch
garden owner Willem Bentinck, as I explained

42 : 1

in my paper for this journal. Another expression
of Temple’s admiration is his lengthy essay
addressed to his Dutch garden friend Huygens.
Huygens though, does not feature in Murray’s
writing. For Temple and Epicurus, or Temple and
Chinese statesmanship, there are perhaps better
sources than Murray’s, including work by both
Eric Miller and Qian Zhongshu. 5
One interesting comment from Murray
is that Huygens’s poem ‘sounds like a satire
on sharawadgi, or at least a sense of being
dizzied by it’. However, as Huygens’s poem
was of 1653, how could he have made a satire
on Temple’s sharawadgi, which was written in
1685 and published in 1690? The same juggling
with chronology is seen where Murray brings in
the literary giants Addison and Swift. With all
respect, these men have nothing to do with Temple
proposing sharawadgi in 1685. Addison was born
1672, too young to be aware of all this and Swift
became Temple’s secretary only in 1688.
Finally, I hope that it does not disappoint
Professor Murray too much to realize that the
role of sharawadgi was modest in establishing
the picturesque, romanticism and the English
landscape garden; nor that sharawadgi was also
instrumental outside England in other discourses
as well. 6
wybe kuitert

Department of Landscape Architecture,
Graduate School of Environmental Studies,
#82-416 Seoul National University,
South Korea. Email: goedemorgen@snu.ac.kr
references
1

‘By the time that he [Temple] wrote,
sorowaji was obsolete in the standard language;
but it survived in the south, where the Dutch
settlement lay. The trick of speech through
which it became shorowaji is still characteristic
of the region; while the further change to
sharawaji, or sharawadgi as Temple spelled
it, is consistent with its having been filtered
through Dutch’; Ciaran Murray, ‘Sharawadgi
resolved’, Garden History, 26/2 (1998),
pp. 208–13. Note 19 states: ‘I owe these details
to Professor M. Kanai, Tokyo University.’
2
Ciaran Murray, ‘Sharawadgi: the Japanese
source of Romanticism’, Transactions of the
Asiatic Society of Japan, 4th ser., 13 (1998),
pp. 20–33.
3
Ibid., p. 21.
4
For details of shara’aji, Temple’s
sharawadgi, refer to my article, ‘Japanese
art, aesthetics, and a European discourse:
unraveling Sharawadgi’, Japan Review
(in press).
5
Eric Miller, ‘Epicurean gardens in William
Temple and John Wilmot’, Dalhousie Review,
86/3 (2006), pp. 229–344; Qian Zhongshu.
‘China in the English literature of the
seventeenth century’, Quarterly Bulletin of
Chinese Bibliography, 1 (1940), pp. 351–84.
6
Kuitert, ‘Japanese art, aesthetics, and a
European discourse’.