Video feature: 'Gardens in China and Japan'

Kyoto Gardens students at pond

During spring break 2014 Princeton students in the class "Gardens in China and Japan" experienced firsthand the beauty and design of gardens and temples in Kyoto, Japan. Above: Rising seniors Amber Stewart and Henrique De Freitas take a moment to watch the koi fish in a garden pond.

Photo by Kemy Lin, Class of 2015

To allow students to immerse themselves firsthand in the design, aesthetics, sights and sounds of Asian gardens, a recent Princeton class incorporated a spring break trip to Kyoto, Japan.

"Trying to study architecture from a photograph or a slide is a little bit like trying to understand a movie by reading about it. … You really have to be there. You really have to experience it," said Jerome Silbergeld, the P.Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Professor in Chinese Art.

In spring 2014, Silbergeld co-taught the class "Gardens in China and Japan" with Thomas Hare, the William Sauter LaPorte '28 Professor in Regional Studies. The course examined private gardens and public parks as sites for social activity, private retreats and the material embodiment of a wide range of fundamental values of the cultures in which they appear. Interest in the course — which was cross-listed with the Department of Art and Archaeology, the Department of Comparative Literature and the Department of East Asian Studies — was so high that students had to be interviewed to be admitted.

This video captures the group's experiences in Japan through photographs taken by several of the students and interviews with the professors and rising seniors Henrique De Freitas and Phway Aye.

"Every rock, every shape of a pond, every plant, asks a question from you and you're trying to find the answer … that's what I enjoyed most about being able to actually walk through these gardens as opposed to just talking about them or looking at pictures," said De Freitas, a concentrator in operations research and financial engineering.

A highlight of the spring 2014 course "Gardens in China and Japan" was a weeklong trip to Kyoto, Japan, to visit gardens and temples. (Video by Danielle Alio, Office of Communications)