Karesansui Garden in a Zen Temple


Tsukiyama Garden in a temple


Chaniwa Garden or tea garden

Japanese Gardens, the Karesansui


Ryogen-in Temple garden

The above picture is taken from a garden of the Ryogen-in temple is a traditional Stand and Stone garden, named Kare-san-sui (dry garden) or Zen-niwa. It is the most abstract form of the Japanese Garden forms and they are typically found in Zen monasteries. In these Zen temples the gardens took on a very simple form - raked sand to represent the ocean and stones to represent gods, mountains or animals.

Ryogen-in, a temple of the Daitoku-ji Buddhist complex, was constructed in 1502. There are five gardens adjoining the abbot's residence, the most famous of which is the Ryogintei, a rectangle of moss and stones viewed from the veranda of the abbot's house. The group of stones in the center of the garden is thought to represent Mt. Horai, the mythical home of Taoist immortals.

This was the dry garden (Karesansui) full of symbolism where the monks spent many hours in meditation seeking enlightenment from the stone and the sand (Ryogen-in temple garden).

Royan-ji, a master piece.

The stones garden of the Ryoan-ji temple in the north-western Kyoto is considered as the best example of Karesansui, as it did not include any plant, pond, or tree. It is located in the southern part of the hojo's residence, and is surrounded by a low wall.

Japanses Garden 3
Drawing of the layout of the Ryoan-ji garden and the hojo.

Ryoan-ji is known as one of the master piece of the Japanese gardens, but its author is unknown. Probably it was created by some kawaramono ( professional landscape designers) working in co-operation with Zen monks. In one of the fifteen stones of the garden, two signatures of kawaramono are engraved.

Ryoan-ji Karesansui garden
View of the Ryoan-ji karesansui from the hojo residence.

The temple of Ryoan-ji (the peaceful dragon), was built in 1450, and destroyed during the Onin civil war, but it was rebuilt by Hosokawa Masamoto in 1488, and the garden was probably designed at that time. Since then, only light changes have occured.

Many attempts have been done by scholars to explain the arrangement of the fifteen stones of this dry-garden, but none is certain. Knowning that the Zen monks were associated at the design, we can say that the layout and its highly aesthetical resulting landscape promote the Zen meditation.

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