Karesansui: Japanese Zen Gardens

The Japanese dry gardens, known as Zen gardens are a physical expression of ideas about emptiness in the philosophy of Zen Buddhism. The oldest Japanese Zen gardens were created in Buddhist enclosures as places of reflection for religious teachings. Associated with stillness and meditation, karesansui (枯 山水, the original Japanese name) were designed not so much to modify, but to be contemplated, like a painting.Zen gardens were originally inspired by Chinese poetry and ink paintings from the 9th and 10th century, with characteristics embodied in desolation, melancholy and minimalism.

Origin of Japanese Zen gardens

The first karesansui It was created in the 14th century by the monk and gardener Muso Soseki. The most famous example is in Kyoto, in the Ryoan-ji, “The temple of the quiet dragon.” Ryoan-ji was designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1994. Dry and enigmatic, the garden that was designed 500 years ago seems to have no time and continues to attract thousands of visitors each year.

japanese zen gardens

A dozen rocks, scattered sand and a little clay can convey the greatness of the universe or help to enter a contemplative state. The artistic meaning of the Zen garden is more than just the elements put together. There are no plants or flowers, just an open space and stones strategically placed on white sand, with curved or straight lines.

The purpose of these dry landscapes is to distill the essence of an authentic landscape, to evoke the impression of a miniature landscape. A good zen garden should be both, “Image and poem”, that is, not only an impression of beauty, but also a state of mind of the soul. It is the deep thought behind the design, the careful placement of each of the elements, and the attention to detail in their execution that count. Once the Zen garden has been created, it is all about dedicating time daily to its maintenance. A karesansui average takes three to five hours to clean the sand, flatten the surface and trace its patterns.

example of a japanese zen garden