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What makes an authentic Torii?

Posted by Herb Victoria, B.C. (My Page) on
Wed, Jun 22, 05 at 0:58

"Authenticity" in relation to Japanese gardens is a topic on which there seems to be a wide variety of opinion.

A lot of people for example would rather use real bamboo in a garden than a product made from vinyl, even though the best vinyl version is more durable and looks just like natural bamboo, and is (I have read) increasingly popular in Japan.

In light of this I wonder what they think of Torii - in Kyoto yet - shown on this site? -

Click here to see what I mean


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Herb,

I assume "what makes an authentic torri" refers to the scale and materials used in some of the pictures you linked to. The vast tubular steel torri in Kyoto on the approach to the Hiean jingu shrine probably being the most 'surprising' example. However it does mark the entrance or approach to a shrine. Is this and not the size or choice of materials what makes a torri authentic as opposed to it being used as a garden ornament as it is often seen in the west?

Graham


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Using man-made materials in gardens

  • Posted by Herb Victoria, B.C. (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 22, 05 at 11:28

Graham,

Your point that the giant steel Torii really does mark the entrance to a shrine has hit a nail on the head. I should not have tried to address the question of authenticity & it made my attempt to draw an analogy between a steel Torii & synthetic bamboo made from an unfortunate mix of apples and oranges.

I should have used a different topic heading.- 'Using man-made materials in gardens'.

How does the analogy look, in terms not of authenticity, but of 'aesthetic suitability'? If Japanese can find not only synthetic bamboo made from vinyl, but even a Torii made from steel, aesthetically acceptable, should we start using synthetic bamboo too?

Herb


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oops

  • Posted by Herb Victoria, B.C. (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 22, 05 at 11:47

Part of that first paragraph doesn't make sense - it should have read -

"I should not have tried to address the question of authenticity & it made my attempt to draw an analogy between a steel Torii & synthetic bamboo made from vinyl an unfortunate mix of apples and oranges."


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Vinyl bamboo does not look like the real thing. Even the best plastic/vinyl bamboo does not look like the real thing.


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Man-made v. natural materials

  • Posted by Herb Victoria, B.C. (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 22, 05 at 15:35

I've only seen pictures of a vinyl versions. I thought some looked better than others, but since you're in Japan, I assume you've seen them in real life, so I have to defer to your opinion.

Maybe the point is that the steel Torii doesn't look like wood either - but I presume Japanese (or some Japanese?) nonetheless find it aesthetically satisfying?

I'd certainly like to try some of the vinyl 'bamboo'. If anybody has used it & could post pictures it'd be very interesting to see them.


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Torii are a religious structure. I visit this forum to talk about gardens, not church steeples. Just my opinion.


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

  • Posted by Herb Victoria, B.C. (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 24, 05 at 11:20

It's obviously true that Church steeples don't have much to do with Japanese garden unless, perhaps, by way of borrowed scenery.

On the other hand, some people think that Japanese gardening is inextricably linked with Buddhism and Shinto, and are keen to discuss these links and their influences. Others prefer the view that Buddhism and Shinto are more or less irrelevant, and would rather concentrate on aesthetics.

My own inclination is to concentrate on the aesthetics and not on the religious, but even so, Torii are quite often associated with some examples of Japanese garden, so I should have thought that the matter of whether they happen to be pleasing to the eye was a legitimate topic?


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Torii as garden structures

  • Posted by Herb Victoria, B.C. (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 24, 05 at 11:26

It's obviously true that Church steeples don't have much to do with Japanese garden unless, perhaps, by way of borrowed scenery, but is that true of Torii?

Some people think that Japanese gardening is inextricably linked with Buddhism and Shinto, and are keen to discuss these links and their influences. Others prefer the view that Buddhism and Shinto are more or less irrelevant, and would rather concentrate on aesthetics.

My own inclination is to concentrate on the aesthetics and not on the religious, but even so, Torii are quite often associated with some examples of Japanese garden, so I should have thought that the matter of whether they happen to be pleasing to the eye was a legitimate topic?


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Many Japanese garden elements carry 'religious' conotations, certain rock settings for example, though to many people the aesthetics of such elements have overtaken any original Buddhist/Shinto 'meanings'. Though torri have been widely misused in many western Japanese style gardens it is not possible to say that they have nothing to do with gardens when the historic landscapes that form the bulk of any garden tour in Japan include many gardens associated with shrines and temples.

Graham


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Torii are more or less the same thing as church steeples, just a different religion. Who are these "some people" who can't tell the difference between a church steeple and a garden? I'd prefer to talk about gardens. Just my opinion.


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Yes, its just that the average church does not have a historical garden which attracts many thousands of visitors, not to worship at the church but view the garden.

Graham


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Yamma described the origin of the torii last year during a similar discussion of it's use and supposed misuse and if I got his take correctly, the torii was utilitarian. It was a roost developed by temple monks to take care of the chickens left as offerings by worshipers.

Therfore it would seem to me that the torii is open to further interpretation for other uses.

As to real bamboo an fake bamboo, if the Japanese are going to vinyl for durability it shows that they are not necessarily hung up on the actual material coposition, (similar to vinyl decking and fencing) but we are, because we are trying to reproduce a look.


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

I think it would have to be said that though artificial bamboo is available in Japan and being used in some situations it is hardly the norm. Most Japanese I feel would prefer to use real bamboo, appreciate the weathering of the material and when the time comes enjoy building a replacement.


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

I've seen plastic bamboo, and to me it looks tacky.


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

I think this is why the only plastic bamboo I have seen used has been in private gardens where the fence or screen it is used for is a distant view.

I must be forgiven for backtracking here but I just cannot get over the statement that "torri are more or less the same thing as church steeples, just a different religion".
Which is the more and which is the less ? A pagoda or stupa could be said to be 'more or less the same thing as a church steeple, just a different religion' but a torri has nowhere near the same function or symbolism. Most shrines have many torri spanning a walkway. Some more famous shrines have many hundreds. I've never seen a church with any number of steeples. Jeepsters description of the origins of the torri is undoubtedly correct. I just fail to grasp torri and church steeples being one and the same.

Graham


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Perhaps the question could have been worded better because there seems little doubt that an authentic torrii does not depend upon the material that it is made from. Therefore, taken out of context one could concentrate on the shape or the colour or the size and it could meet whatever aesthetic criterion you set for it.
There is even less doubt that gardens are as diverse as those who garden them, consequently talking about gardens can include church steeples, or the natural phenomenon that inspired them, the colour wheel or worms, anything narrower is, well, narrow.
If the question is about aesthetics or 'taste', for heavens sake I don't need anyone to tell me what is tacky. Even less do I need someone to describe what are the limits of the topics that should be talked about here without talking about anything, even if that nothing is only their opinion.


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Tacky is a good word to describe fake bamboo. There might be other adjectives that would also describe it, but for me the word tacky sums it up quite nicely.


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Inky, I think the pot is being stirred again, to which the only valid response can be humour. We also know that humour has some expense to it.
:)),
:. previously on the same channel, different day, which is now in reruns, 'authenticity' had been ratified as being 'finished to the Author's Intent'. This seems selectively forgotten to prod different points to fruition.
--really, good people of the Forum, no matter what masses of people may say, this isn't going to change what Japanese gardeners call it or what it is.

Authenticity is, when 'it' is finished to the Author's Intent.

Now the Author's knowledge may vary one whole heck of a lot. But, it is still authentic.

What is the 'best expression' of that item, garden, scene, Torii, etc.. may be more accurate to what Herb is attempting to express. Perhaps the best expression of a Torii is not evoked by using metal. Perhaps the intimate 'eyeball pressed to fence' expression requires real bamboo... --even though if the eye stops on the fence in the garden then the success of the garden may very well be questioned... however, if this is what is wished to be expressed...

As for Torii... there are 13 kinds.
--When they are completely built they are all authentic.

The Waraza type Torii has the Kasaki (top beam) wrapped in metal to stop the wood from rotting, introducing well the image of a metal Torii. In the case of the metal Torii, it appears to be an Ryobu type, however the base is not clear.

As Yamakami san pointed out, in part, (since the Forums ears glazed over and selective reading was employed), was that the 'word' originates as a perch of chickens/cocks, essentially nothing more.
There was more to the story, except selective hearing will be kicked in again, as culture is needed for the clarification, compared to aesthetics alone,.. (which ought to tell me right there that further writing is a complete waste of effort...)

The word Torii (to latest research) stems from a horizontal rope to a beam on which a long crowing cock named Tokoyo-Naganaki-dori (perpetual-daylight-long-singing bird) was perched and induced to crow to lure Amaterisu out of the cave during the Big Blackout.

This went with the rave being held simultaneously by the 8 million gods..
It is not known if during the rave, the chicken or the torii came first, even though the __concept__ was used as a safe roosting technique after the rave.

I figure it this way,.. Presumably the gods did not require chickens for food, or to keep chickens safe, therefore I would suspect the Torii came first, however, as aesthetics are natural to our eyes and unneeded by gods,
and contrary to some popular beliefs of gods an' all, being created by Man, one would think the perch to place the crowers on was needed before pontification to the masses was undertaken.

... back to Torii, Tokoyo the cock crows 3 times, therefore 3 Torii before a Shinto shrine represent the 3 crowings of the passing of night, coming of day, morning. The 3 Torii prepare the heart of the worshipper for his purified appearance before the 'gods'.
Previously one clapped 3 times before a shrine, as Kashiwade (clapping of clean palms) however the sound is in imitation of the kashiwa fowls phonetic wings (the young [learning] cock) that flaps its wings thrice as it crows to announce the morning.

frankly, one can use a Torii for any interpretation one wishes. However the question remains, of how 'people will read it as an expression of the Author'. This is much the same as employing a steeple to be an outhouse... it may or may not be in good taste culturally, depending on ones travels, and it may always be in good taste aesthetically, since 'we like steeples and the shape'.

Tacky... hmmm, everything we have today was tacky at one time. If it takes something tacky to express the Author's intent, then the tackiness is validated... the only question remaining, of how the materials and Author's expression and taste will be read. And, how the Author feels about that, shunning an' all still being relevant today as yesteryear.

--building a garden entirely out of plastic is not unheard of. And for its purpose, it is well suited as a material and therefore successful as a rooftop garden. Trade shows would be alot easier with plastic pieces, rather than 10 tonnes of plant and stone materials to set up and take down. (etc.)

It is not so much that my taste differs from someone elses, more it is that I express something dofferently than someone else, from a different knowledge base, which was less yesterday than it is today - indicating gently that aesthetic or taste, may well be an acquired knowledge (that eventually becomes a culture) rather than an inate knowledge occasionally misunderstood as culture...

I can see the eyes glazing over again..
thanks for reading this far,
edzard
(disclaimer: lightness of tone and any apparent disrespect may have been employed to reduce glazing of eyes and ears and to reduce caverning of the tooth chamber. This lightness of tone, however, may not be the author's intent nor belief. Please enquire further before berating)


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

When the priest chooses to speak only Latin to a non-Latin congregation, the congregation has only "selective" input to rely upon, as they are forced to winnow the message for a common understanding. Misinterpretation becomes rife or more that a much more narrow interpretation is like to ensue that may differ from that of the priests intended rhetoric as one piques on a phrase or a word that may or may not have meaning. Nuances are lost as the unclean masses grope for a clearer picture of the truth. They are sent careening off in unforeseen and unintended vectors, the message lost. Knowledge is held safe. The priest closes his book and rides his ass to the next town.


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

bacchus... thank you for the eloquent response.
I'm unsure what I should understand from it. What is your 'takehome' message? What would you like me to understand?

Are you indicating that further elaboration from a professional level of the history and therefore the application of Torii is not useful, preferring rather to be misled by only having heard a portion of the information?

Or that smaller fish are needed for understanding rather than being offered a fishing rod to form your own solutions?

or that information is being withheld from you, since I only read and comment in between building gardens?

What 'unclean masses'?
(masses reference is to the masses of misinformation on the web, wherein ie: zen gardens are dry gardens which is not true no matter how many masses of people wish to believe it, or how many sites say the same thing)

Are you attempting to set yourself beneath others by invoking priestly elevations in others, when in reality this was a serious attempt to employ humour to empower those building gardens to believe in what they are doing?
(vis a vis authenticity, wherein Herb misdirected information to spice his observational question, quasi corrected in his second post)

or, are you indicating that you wish information to be dictated to people, creating finite parameters when in reality there should be much more flexibility in gardens than you would like to read about?

or was your intent to make this personal? when my response was a general informational hoping to redirect inaccurate statements without pointing fingers, that were limiting in scope, that would eventually mislead people?

I am perplexed and puzzled by your response.
Perhaps you have a completely different takehome message for me that has not been mentioned...

Are there historical clarifications on the Posted subject (authenticity, plastic bamboo, Torii + now the why of Torii) you would like? (if I know them, as my knowledge base is also constantly being added to?)


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Thank you edzard,
The caverning of the tooth may, incidentally, provide an interesting analogy. Massive problem sends me off to someone with answers someone better paid than a priest; the answer? root canal. "But which tooth?" says I. "Top left molar". Not keen on this answer or the mentioned $'s I go to another one with answers. He says "Root canal" I say, "Which tooth?" and "How much?" Similar price but he says "Bottom left". "Nothing at the top?" I say. Negative.
So faced with the possibility of the problem being in both teeth at a cost of $1500.00 I reversed the logic, i.e. the problem is in neither tooth.
And the real answer was "Advil".
The dentists intent was thwarted by my intent as I only wanted to stop the pain.


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Many times, what may appear as "selective reading" on the part of one person may actually be a misunderstanding of a concept due entirely to a low signal to noise ratio at the interface between the speaker and the listener. When an expert transmits an idea and the listener or receiver does not have the proper discriminators, such a common terminology or language, the listener is only capable of integrating those signals that are recognizable.

As an example, the apparent misimpression that the Torii originated as a roost for chickens left by worshipers at shrines for the support of monks was created thusly: "The Torii, bla, bla, bla, used, bla, bla, bla, roost, bla, bla, bla, bla, chickens left by, bla, bla, bla, worshipers bla, bla for monks. The resultant integration of the signal peak amplitudes renders a recognizable and plausible story. Subtle nuances based upon exotic traditions and religions are not integrated with the story because of a lack of cultural discriminators.
"(since the Forums ears glazed over and selective reading was employed)", By golly the dumb-ass only heard what he wanted to hear. If "There was more to the story", it was lost in the noise floor of clever story smithing,"except selective hearing will be kicked in again,... (which ought to tell me right there that further writing is a complete waste of effort...)". May the message would be better discriminated if the signal to noise of the transmitter was improved.
Therefore it is rather patronizing to assume that since the original transmission of the message did not render a complete integration of the supposed truth it was because of "selective reading" not because of a low signal to noise of the transmitter.


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Bacchus, thank you for the enlightenment, that took some time and thought.
if I understand correctly then the transmission of noise should be at a grade 6 level, across the board, rather than to include something for everyone. (?)

-for me offering more is a kinder expression of thought and intent, intended rather as consideration for others than to dictate 'what should be' which removes the receiver of their involvement.. which I deem as rude. Readers can always refer back to it when the first layers have been adsorbed. Correspondingly, I self deprecate by alluding to others eyes glazing over, as self directed humour, since many have commented on the effect privately as they printed the post and refer to it later.

yet with parallel relevance to the (misnomer authentic) 'best expression of Torii', then the side bar murmured suggestion should be, by example, referenced to Mikawa's fine composition, that the bamboo spout is too pointed and the pathway is missing stones and it is too square.
And leave it at that. No explanation.
Which, for me is simply being rude.

whereas, the (my) actual reflection would be that culturally, the spout is cut too pointed signifying a spear, rather than a bamboo aquaduct provided for fresh water coming from the 8 mountains. The cut angle of the spout is what indicates the difference between western thought and eastern thought -which is the practical use of a specific shape. The sharper angle may be more aesthetic for the spouting water, however, this lack of understanding the spear with its cultural baggage is the difference between a good garden and 'How beautiful, I've seen nothing like it in Japan'.

This is also reflected in the composition in that the stone pathway signifies that it is only to be seen, not used, and that in a subtle way the stones are arranged backwards. -- or 2 to 3 stones are missing in the photographs. And that in the layout the direction 'appears' unuseable, both for candle and water, as well as for the users comfort.
(Inshuldigungen Mikawa, dass ich Ihren Garten so benutze, Ich hoffe das Sie gut verstehen dass ich garnichts negativ meine.... als Gaertner zu Gaertner meine ich Dieses nur als Hilfe fuer dass gesammpte besserung, mange tak -- p.s. do you prefer Danish or German?)

This would (in simple terms) reflect to /Henriks composition, wherein the basin should be moved outwards into the ocean (and note the excellently selected 4 piled stones in Mikawa's ocean are waves), that shadow depth should created to the right, a branch used for the aquaduct, rustic lantern to the fence side, proper heights observed to the candle stone relative to the basin with the water stone shorter ---and 3 stones imbedded into the pavers to indicate the active use, of and how to use, the basin --and if moved to the inside of the 'fence', then it would dictate what type of garden would need to be there instead of the landscape garden he desires, not to mention that the reading/meaning changes drastically.

whereas normally to intrigue and appeal to all knowledge levels i would explain the 8 mountain (mandala) template which is the equivalent of the Christian 4 rivers quadrants. (which would assist Christian, Inkognito and a few others)
And in this way, leave the decisions to the gardeners, so that they get something from it now, and something from it later, and again, later,.. if, if they so choose.
-and suggest that the lantern, basin and spout be constructed in rustic fashion of a hollowed short log, charred for water retention, a boulder constructed lantern perhaps with combined wood, and a hollowed and charred branch for the spout as juxtaposition of the shin vs so, rather than having the composition vanish comparitive to the strength of the brick pattern by only employing gyo. Once again, allowing people to use what they wish, rather than dictating what should be, nor insulting good people by writing to a grade 6 level of comprehension.
and /Henrik or others can ask for explanations from there, if i have time, which normally I do not. Better use of time and focus to write once than to write 7 times.

I will reflect more on your recommendations bacchus, and thank you once again for them.

--and ponder reading as well, since I rarely use a word that is not useful in a sentence. Words having no meaning, are edited out. If a garden were expressed in words (ie: to a blind person), what words would you use? meaningful ones rich with nuance to verbally see with? or perhaps we take our visual ability too much for granted, such that the verbal tapestry of communication has become a lost art?
and should I only respond to one grade of reader? or contribute something so that I may enjoy this exchange as well, by suggesting a conversation at my preferred topic depth.
It is not just, 'all about you'. It is about me as well. And at what depth of conversation? - so that I might enjoy my invested writing time and learn something more by participating (which your response has kindly provided)
edzard
Inkognito.. tis truth,.. I chuckled, and am still.. good advertisement concept for Advil... a missed calling?


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Once again, thank you edzard. Your second paragraph is exactly how I feel although the entire post opens up possibilities that I wish this forum could aspire to.
If "or (should I )contribute something so that I may enjoy this exchange as well, by suggesting a conversation at my preferred topic depth." is a real question then my answer is "Yes".
Happy Canada day too!


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Ok I get it. All of this over a torii? This is not why I come to the forum. I profess no expertise in the subject worthy of wrestling with experts, only an inexplicable and visceral attraction to Japanese gardens. I have no preconceived notions of authenticity. I have learned immensely just by poking around in the back streets and alleyways of Herbs photo links.

I have made no recommendations for you to reflect upon, but you might consider curbbing the tendency toward condescension. Why a hundred words when one will do? Oh yes you have explianed that. Some forums degrade into tit for tat, and this one seems to have a cheering section to boot. I acquiesce and apologize to the forum for my part in it.


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A useful service?

  • Posted by Herb Victoria, B.C. (My Page) on
    Fri, Jul 1, 05 at 14:47

Bacchus has a powerful point when he questions why a hundred words are used when one will do. Apropos that problem, this site offers a useful-sounding translation service -

"........... we translate documents from French, Spanish, and Portuguese into English. You will receive a precise rendition of your original document that effectively conveys its meaning with the feeling, clarity, and style of well-written English." (Unfortunately, it seems to be confined to Latin languages).

However it does offer Revision and Re-writing. Their Revision service includes editing for for errors in diction and syntax, and then for clarity, effectiveness, and consistency in style. Their Re-writing service is described as revising, re-writing and reorganizing, and frequently making substantial changes for .... overall improvement ......

Whether the service also has the capacity to extract meaning from all examples of the convoluted and the obscure, to tone down the supercilious, and to give all such material material the style of well-written, lucid English that makes people eager to read it, is unclear.
Click here


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Jeepster....
-I was adding to the overall knowledge base regarding Torii, while re-aligning the several uses of 'authentic' in recent posts, by responding with a professionals perspective, mostly in case people actually speak with real Japanese gardeners, they would be speaking the same language. And the unfortunate gardener would not have to re-educate the duped client.
This would also reflect on the acceptance of bamboo, real or PVC, as suggested by the gardener, who would understand the application.

-- you decided to take the topic off topic by introducing priests and asses to travel on, which I believe, had nothing to do with the posted topic.
-I chose to see these as recommendations in a positive light. I try to believe that all people wish positive things for all other people, as I try to write in a contributive manner.

Each of us has a choice to read how & what we wish to read.
And each makes a personal choice regarding whether one wishes to read thinking in terms of condescension, or encouragement,... or whatever way.
What one understands from the written passage indicates where on the learning path of garden comprehension or life one is. The same communication is evident by the manner in which each stone is selected and set.
But, you know this already, which may also indicate that I was writing for new comers, not for you.

Herb... chuckle and chortle... perhaps the site would recommend how to finish sentences.
Some examples:
" I should not have tried to address the question of authenticity & it made my attempt to draw an analogy between a steel Torii & synthetic bamboo made from an unfortunate mix of apples and oranges."
or edit the duplicity...
", and to give all such material material the style of well-written, lucid English that makes people eager to read it, is unclear."

... I thank you.
you've answered a nagging question I have had for a while and it was answered in record time.

----however, whether I write a lot more than needed, or whether others write incompletely or with duplication, or with broken English, -- to censure the expression of language used on an international forum, is rather phobic, is it not? Would this not lead to a type of bigamy?

It appears that there are others that prefer converstaions beyond the depth of a few pictures. (is each valued at 1000 words??, then how many hundreds of words would there be if one sufficed?)
I'll then leave it to the Forum to ask what they will at whatever depth they desire, when they tire of pictures or have no time to surf as much as is offered. Pictures are valuable, just not always explanatory.

Of course, we could always split the GW Forum, with the professional solutions being responded to on jgarden.org.
edzard


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

  • Posted by Herb Victoria, B.C. (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 3, 05 at 14:04

Edzard,

LOL!

The first sentence that you cite as 'unfinished' was so because it accidentally left out the word 'vinyl' - as I immediately pointed out, though you may not have noticed.

Your second 'example' is incomprehensible. You cite only the second half of a sentence. You imply that it needs to be edited for 'duplicity' (whatever that means). Yet as an English sentence, there is nothing wrong with it!

For my part, I'm combining a chuckle with a shrug.


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

'material material'...
likewise Herb, with a chuckle and shrug..
merely illustrating by example what happens when selective reading is employed.


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Yes, but....

  • Posted by Herb Victoria, B.C. (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 3, 05 at 14:44

Edzard -

Touch!

However ..... please look up the word 'duplicity'. I hope you meant 'duplication'........

Herb


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RE: What makes an authentic Torii?

Getting back to materials, the vast majority of torii here seem to be made of concrete. Now, I wonder if we should wrestle with the powers that be in this land (no matter how mundane or divine) to question the use of such an "unnatural" material? Could we win? Simple utility is the issue, not esthetics; the stuff just don't rot! PF


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