The place of Oriental philosophy is on NU campus

The Nazarbayev University Cultural Center opened last July. Since then, the center has been welcoming all guests all year round. We talked to Rauan Kishkeev, the manager of the USM administrative complex management service, who told us more about the Japanese Garden of Stones.

– The center is located on NU’s campus and occupies about 200 square meters. It includes the Japanese garden, as well as an adjacent glass pavilion, where one can hold various events or just come to meditate. The Japanese Garden of Stones is a place of philosophical significance and sacral power. In Japan, it is believed that stones have always had a special power. Since ancient times, a cluster of cobbles and boulders has been considered a sacred place marked by the gods. In such places people performed rituals, prayed and meditated. The stones used in NU’s garden were brought from Japan.

It is said that our garden is an exact copy of an existing garden in Kyoto, Japan, whose layout served as a model for the location of the stones and lines in our garden. It is interesting, that if you look at the garden from any point of view it is only possible to see 14 stones at once – the fifteenth will always be hidden from your eyes. It is believed that only a person who has reached enlightenment can see all 15 stones at once. As far as I know, our visitors have not yet been able to see it (laughs).

 As you know, the developer who drafted the master plan for our university’s garden was a famous Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. NU was very excited about the opportunity to have such a center and Japanese garden of stones designed by this architect on the territory of the university.  The idea was to reflect a balance between learning and the desire for knowledge, as well as knowledge of oneself and a philosophical view of the world. I think there is always a need for this, for all peoples and at all times.

– How many visitors do you have to visit the center?

– Today our center has become a favorite place to rest, and not only for students. There are regular visitors who come almost daily, often at the same time of day. Many women with children like to walk here, because they claim that visiting the center and walking in the garden calms the children, and helps them to sleep long and hard.  There are students who come in their free time and walk in the garden, as well as bring their parents and other guests here.

 In addition to being a place for individuals to rest, meditate, and walk, it is possible to host events at the center.   To organize an event on the center’s premises, please send a request to our service in order to arrange access to the building. We have also been approached by representatives of the Embassy of Japan, who have held their events and photo shoots here.

– How do you take care of our garden? 

– I think everyone will agree that in order to please visitors, a place should be kept clean and in order. The Garden of Stones is no exception. In winter we cover the stones with a special tarpaulin to protect the garden from snow. Since the garden is outdoors, it can have problems draining, and the wind can damage the sand pattern, etc. Therefore, I regularly groom the sand matrix around the stones in a certain pattern symbolizing the waves. For this purpose, we have made a special tool modeled on a Japanese sketch, reminiscent of a rake, which is used to create this motif.  Because the garden’s layout was created according to Buddhist principles, it is very important to keep the exact arrangement and composition of the stones as planned by the architect.  This means that the groupings of stones and the pattern of the pebbles needs to remain unchanged. To maintain the garden successfully, a person instrumental in its design traveled all the way from Japan in order to instruct our employees in person in the proper rules and care for the garden’s upkeep.    

It is very important for us that the garden’s visitors respect this cultural object and the work of those who take care of it.  We have had some problems in the past, and we would like to remind the visitors of our rules so that everyone may enjoy the garden as it is intended.  The garden rules are posted at the entrance to the garden.  The most important are the following: please do not spoil the white marble chips, modify the sand drawing, sit on the stones, or move them. There are special paths for walking throughout the garden from which all the unique compositions of stones can be seen, so there is no need to step off the path! I would like to take this opportunity to call for more respect for the garden, by reminding you of the philosophy of love of nature, reflection and privacy, on which it is based. I think you will agree with me that if we allow this philosophy to guide our visits, then all of our guests will be able to enjoy the garden equally.  They will be able to see, understand, contemplate, and admire it. I invite everyone to visit our center.