A Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen

What is the secret of the Japanese stone garden: How to immerse yourself in the traditions of Zen Buddhism and find the path to enlightenment

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The mystery of the vanishing fifteenth stone is perhaps the first thing a European associates with the traditional Japanese “dry” garden. However, neither the “invisible” stone, nor “Mount Fuji”, nor the sea of moss are obligatory elements of the garden of stones, unlike the one for whom it is intended – a person.

How rock gardens came to be in Japan

The Japanese garden has passed a long way from luxurious spaces intended for entertainment of the nobility and decoration of aristocratic residences to secluded and quiet places for meditation. As with everything indigenous to Japan, the tradition of gardening came to the islands from China, transforming over time into a distinctive and unique phenomenon. Buddhism played a decisive role here: the areas around temples were organized so as to promote meditation and unity with nature.

The stone garden, just like a traditional Japanese garden, is always in harmony with the landscape

The first Japanese gardens, created according to new principles, appeared in the 8th century. They were already spaces that emphasized the perfection of the surrounding nature, and interference with the natural landscape was limited to the purpose of such gardens – meditation, contemplation, and detachment from the hustle and bustle of human cares. The nature of Japan, especially the island of Honshu, where traditions of creation of a Japanese garden were born, is notable for its special beauty, variety, changeability depending on the season. It has inspired garden designers to find harmony between order and chaos, rules and spontaneity.

The peace and quiet of a Japanese garden helps you detach from your everyday life.

The first manual of Japanese gardening, the Sakuteiki, appeared in the 11th century. This manuscript was a record of a long-standing tradition that was passed down orally from the previous generation to the next. From the twelfth century Japanese culture was under the influence of Zen Buddhism, popular among the samurai, the military aristocracy. And soon – since the XIV century, when the Muromachi period began – stone gardens, “karesansui” (dry mountains and waters), which were created at Buddhist temples, began to spread. The main purpose of the Japanese garden of stones is to serve as a platform, a space for meditation, silent comprehension of truth. According to Japanese philosophy nature is the best way to help self-knowledge.

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It is believed that the first creators of the Japanese stone garden were inspired by monochrome Chinese landscapes.

It is considered that the first creators of a Japanese stone garden were inspired by Chinese monochrome landscapes.

Japan’s famous rock gardens

Some gardens have been preserved since ancient times, including perhaps the most famous in the world, the Reanji Garden in Kyoto.

Reanji Stone Garden

This is one of those sights that for the European tourist is a source of bewilderment and some curiosity, but for the Japanese it is a precious cultural heritage. The Reanji Stone Garden, located within a large temple complex, has no trees, shrubs, or water bodies. A fairly small space-a rectangular area thirty meters long and ten meters wide-is filled with white gravel and groups of large stones surrounded by moss. There are fifteen black stones, as if they were on five islands surrounded by a “sea” of white gravel. The surface of the garden with the help of rakes is put in such condition that it reminds not so much sea ripples or waves – they surround each “island”; thin and frequent parallel furrows outline the main area. On one side of the garden is a terrace where visitors pass, and on three sides it is surrounded by an earthen fence.

Reanji Stone Garden

The peculiarity of the black stones is that no matter where the viewer is on the terrace, he always sees only fourteen stones. One always falls out of sight. If you move, you can see it, but another stone will also become “invisible. This is the main secret of the popularity of the Reanji Garden – because this place offers tourists the most real magic trick. But the true meaning of this effect, of course, is far from the goal of entertaining visitors.

You can see only fourteen large stones from any point on the terrace.

There is no single explanation for the “secret of the fifteenth stone,” and everyone can offer their own interpretation of the phenomenon. According to an ancient legend, the fifteenth stone, which is hidden from the eyes of man, is hidden in his soul, and therefore invisible. Only those who have spiritual insight can contemplate all the stones (indeed, one can see the fifteenth stone when looking at the site from above). Perhaps this is also how the Japanese view of knowledge is embodied-no matter how much science discovers, there will always remain things that are inaccessible to it. For the Japanese, however, the Reanji Garden is not a way to see a curious visual effect, but a place to spend time alone with one’s own thoughts.

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Saikhoji Monastery Garden is famous for its moss

Another famous rock garden in Japan, at the Saihoji Monastery, is famous for its mosses, of which there are over a hundred species. Mosses filled the space of the garden at a time when the temple, founded in the VIII century, was abandoned because of internecine wars. The Saihoji Garden was the first to be created in the new style of Zen Buddhism, in the 14th century.

Saikhoji Garden

Almost the entire space of the garden is filled with mosses – they surround the pond and stone islands “dry garden”, the garden of stones. You can get here only by prior arrangement with the monastery, the flow of tourists damages the vegetation Saihoji.

On the territory of the garden Gingaku-ji, created in the XV century, built its own “mountain Fuji”, later went the fashion for such a construction in other stone gardens, in Japan, and around the world. And the garden of the Daisen-in temple, according to legend, symbolizes the journey along the river of life – the stone “waterfall”, through the bends to the open “sea”.

Gingaku-ji Stone Garden

The Daisen-in Stone Garden has been around since the 16th century.

Symbols of the Japanese garden of stones

Despite the fact that the “dry garden” seems at first glance a chaotic collection, and sometimes a jumble of different kinds of stones, there are rules by which this place should be created – rules that have been followed for several centuries. The stones are placed in groups, often three in each, symbolizing the Buddhist triad. The gravel or sand is smoothed with a rake, making furrows – along the long side of the garden and around the larger stones.

Rock Garden

From each new vantage point, the rock garden should present itself to the observer in a new, unique way. Therefore, another main principle of the organization of the garden is its asymmetry. Sometimes, to add spontaneity to the garden, in addition to groups of stones on the gravel, separate, solitary ones are left. Stone gardens are not only common in Japan; they became fashionable long ago and are spreading to other countries. They try to create a “dry garden” not only in parks, but also in private homes, and even in a smaller version – in the house. Perhaps as one of the many components of the charm of Japanese culture and the culture of the East, a rock garden is a way to look at familiar things and phenomena from a different angle, to emphasize the beauty of the ordinary, small.

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Reanji Micro Garden gives you a chance to count stones from above.

And maybe through contemplation of either chaos or harmony of gravel, sand, stone and moss there is an appeal to the human subconscious, which is facilitated by meditative work with a rake leveling a gravel or sandy ground. Another ancient Japanese tradition, also related to the philosophy of Zen Buddhism and popular around the world, was the tea ceremony, not a meal, but a separate method of meditation.

A Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen

Japanese culture attracts many people from all over the world. For a long time Japan was a closed country, it is still isolated from the rest of the world. But in the 21st century, people interested in the device Japanese life, were lucky enough to touch their history and views on the world. Now everyone can go to the country of the rising sun and see with his own eyes the most precious thing for every Japanese – a real garden of stones.

The Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn Zen teachings - Photo 2

Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen

History and essence of the rock garden.

The garden of stones in Japanese sounds like karesansui, which literally translates to “dry mountains and water”. This becomes quite understandable when you look at the composition itself. The main role is played by stones, symbolizing islands and the life that exists on them. The area of the garden is covered with sand or pebbles, on which the grooves are made, symbolizing the ocean. So formed a miniature picture of the world, but the garden is unique in that everyone can see something different here.

Rock garden in Japan. For those who want to understand Zen teachings - Photo 3

Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen

This unusual kind of garden appeared in the 14th century, during the Muromachi period . It owes its creation to the Japanese poet, master gardener, and monk who lived by the teachings of Zen Buddhism, Muso Soseki. The gardens created directly by him have not survived in their original form because of the many wars. But they have all been reconstructed.

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Rock garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teaching of Zen - Photo 4

A Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen

The most famous stone gardens of Muso Soseki:

Rock garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teaching of Zen - Photo 5

Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen

Rock garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen - Photo 6

Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen

A stone garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen - Photo 7

A Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen

Rock garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen - Photo 8

Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen

Rock garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teaching of Zen - Photo 9

Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen

Philosophical significance

Stone gardens were originally invented as places to meditate . The silence and tranquility that reigns here opens up the human mind and helps one come to know oneself, as well as to come closer to an awareness of the world. True to the principles of Zen Buddhism, the stone gardens allow you to understand the unity of man and nature by taking you inside yourself.

Rock garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teaching of Zen - Photo 10

A Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen

The large amount of open space and open terrain gives a sense of freedom. The meaning of stones and sand in stone gardens can be interpreted in different ways. There is a version that the stones are the light masculine and the so-called water is the dark feminine. Also the tiny world model can mean Yin and Yang.

Rock garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teaching of Zen - Photo 11

Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen

Ginkaku-ji Temple.

The originator of the idea of building the temple was Ashikaga Yoshimasa , the eighth Shogun of Japan . In 1465, construction began on the “Silver Pavilion,” which is the meaning of the name of the future building. Many people confuse Ginkaku-ji with Kinkaku-ji Temple, which was built by Yoshimasa’s grandfather, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. It is not only because of the similarity in sound of the names, but also because Kinkaku-ji means “Golden Pavilion” and was the inspiration for the eighth Shogun to build his villa.

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Rock garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teaching of Zen - Photo 12

Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen

The pavilion is called the silver pavilion because it was originally intended to be completely covered in silver, but the long Oni War did not allow the idea to be realized. The main palace of the residence was completed in 1985. It was then that Yoshimasa settled there, the horrors of war prompting him to become a monk. The original purpose of the building was to create a place where the Shogun could rest, it was not until 1490, after Yoshimasa’s death, that his will transformed the villa into a Zen monastery. After that and to this day the official name of the monastery is Jisho-ji, which means “Temple of Shining Mercy. The monastery was renamed in memory of Yoshimasa, whose posthumous monastic name was Jisho.

The Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the Teachings of Zen - Photo 13

A Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen

The main building is the two-story pavilion dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy Kannon, with sliding doors separating the interior and the rock garden, known as the “Sea of Silver Sand. This arrangement gives the impression that what is behind the doors is a captured painting. Shoami, who worked on the creation of this garden, is recognized as one of the best landscape artists. He took into account the look of his creation not only in sunlight, but also in the moonlight. Everything in the garden is made very skillfully and naturally, so that it is impossible to assume that it was created by man.

The Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen - Photo 14

Stone Garden in Japan. For those who want to learn the teachings of Zen

Stone gardens are one of the main features of Japan . Karesansui will leave an unforgettable impression after the meeting, giving peace of mind and confidence.

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