• Ian Matthews

Befriending a Kyoto Zen Garden

I recently visited Ryōan-ji in north-west Kyoto, Japan. It is a beautiful surviving example of a refined type of Japanese Zen Garden known as a karesansui or “dry landscape”.

Simply sitting there in silence was a profound experience.

The kare-sansui (dry landscape) zen garden at Ryōan-ji Classical zen gardens were created at temples of Zen Bhuddism in Kyoto during the Muromachi period. They were intended to symbolise the intimate essence of nature, and to serve as an aid to meditation when dropping into the silent point of existence. They consist of a miniature landscape created through carefully composed arrangements of rocks, water features, moss, pruned bushes, and sand, raked to represent ripples in water. This temple and its gardens are listed as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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