Since the Museum completed its expansion in 2011, thousands of visitors have discovered a living gem located just outside the wing’s lower level: five-hundred square feet of emerald green and vivid yellow mosses, carefully placed weathered stones, and a sinuous Japanese red pine tree. The Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Garden, made possible through the generosity of two members of the Class of 1960, is a place for quiet contemplation of nature’s beauty exquisitely shaped by the human hand.

Designed and built by landscape architect Marc Peter Keane ’79, the Morgan Garden incorporates three upright gneiss boulders which symbolize the parable of the Three Laughers of the Tiger Glen, whose close friendship overcame the differences in their philosophies. (Their delightful story is the subject of a seventeenth-century Japanese painting in the Museum collection acquired in response to the garden.) Keane, who lived and practiced in Kyoto, Japan, for two decades, utilized a karesansui design, a dry-landscape style in which the impression of water is poetically evoked without actually using water. 

Much like the art that the Johnson exhibits and preserves, the Morgan Garden must be meticulously tended to ensure its continuing health and beauty. The Tiger Glen Friends, devoted volunteers trained and supervised by Keane, have assisted with the garden’s daily upkeep. Nevertheless, last year’s drought severely damaged the delicate mosses. Another generous gift from the Morgans funded their replacement this summer, revitalizing the garden to marvelous effect.

Rebecca and James Morgan made an additional gift to endow a new annual internship to assist in the care and maintenance of the garden and to carry out new curricular activities and programs with our university partners. The inaugural Morgan Garden Intern, Jenny Ding ’18, is a landscape architecture major with a concentration in East Asian studies and horticulture, and served as the 2017 Wong and Cheng Summer Intern for Chinese Art. 

The Morgan Garden provides important and sought-after experiences for our classes. To cite only one example, Spring 2016’s “Zen Buddhism: Aesthetic Cultivation of Self,” co-taught by Ellen Avril, chief curator and curator of Asian art, and Jane-Marie Law, associate professor and director of Cornell’s religious studies program, used the garden as a site for the close examination of themes related to the practice of Zen. 

The Morgan Garden has become one of the Museum’s most treasured components, enjoyed by visitors in all seasons—and all weathers! We are grateful to Rebecca and James Morgan for their wonderful ongoing commitment to the garden’s care and the full realization of its educational potential.