Temples Of Japan

Zen Garden at Ryoanji Temple

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Prototype of the Karesansui Style Garden at Ryoanji Temple

Ryoanji Temple is located in Kyoto city, Japan.  The garden inside the temple is known as the dry landscape rock garden.  It is a world famous zen garden.  This style was introduced into Japan in the Kamakura period and is known as "karesansui" style in Japanese.  This style builds gardens with just gravel, sand and stones.

The garden at Ryoanji temple is a simple garden that signifies the Zen garden's characteristics.  It measures only twenty five meters from east to west and ten meters from south to north.  The design of the garden shows the shifting of the garden design tastes from the Heian era to the Kamakura era.  Gone are the large gorgeous western style gardens of early Heian era or the small condensed monastery gardens of the late Heian era.  There are no trees, ponds, water or vegetation.  Only fifteen rocks and white gravel are used in the construction of this garden.

It is up to each visitor to find out from himself what this unique garden signifies.  The longer one gazes at it, the more varied one's imagine becomes.  This rock garden surrounded by low earthen walls may be thought of as the quintessence of Zen art.  The walls are made of clay boiled in oil.  As time went by, the peculiar design was made of itself by the oil that seeped out.

This world famous rock garden of karesansui style was said to be created at the end of Muromachi Period (around 1500) by a highly respected Zen monk, Tokuho Zenketsu.  (Information taken from Ryoanji Temple Brochure).

Here is a video of this famous dry landscape rock garden:

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