During my trip to Japan in June 2016, of 9 days, I stayed in Kyoto for 5 days, most of which I spent on temple and garden hopping. Among all visited temples and zen gardens, my most memorable place is Ryoanji and its zen garden. Though I had read about the famous zen garden before my visits to Ryoanji, being immersed in the atmosphere of garden is still an amazing experience, which is unfortunately can’t be recorded fully in photos.
The garden has a rectangle shape. Within it, there are 15 stones of different sizes, divided into 5 groups; one group of 5 stones, two groups of 3, and two groups of 2. The base ground is covered with gravel, which is raked carefully everyday by the monks. Stones lie slightly higher than the garden ground. Their surrounding area has some moss. All these stone are arranged in an interesting layout whose entire composition cannot be seen at once from the veranda. From any angle, up to only fourteen stones are visible.
The background wall of the garden contribute to its rustiness. Made of clay, it has been stained and have subtle brown and orange tones. Rustiness is a prominent factor in zen. It shifts the human focus to the content of object, which defines the core aka the essence, instead of its appearance, which usually cause distraction.
To appreciate zen garden or any beauty in life, it is essential that the viewer first reach a calm state of mind, when there is no distraction and noise. In this state, our mind focus can avoid the fancy appearance of object to comprehend its character. The clay wall in Ryoanji serves this purpose well. Ryoanji will be interpreted in a completely different way if the wall is gold-covered.
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