Soul of the Garden

Images of Japan: Nanzen-ji, Kyoto

Nanzen-ji is another retirement villa that was turned into a Buddhist Temple after the death of its owner, the retiree in this case was an Emperor (Kameyana 1249 - 1305.) This temple complex is found near the southern terminus of the famous "Philosopher's Walk." (A perfect day in Kyoto might start here and end at Ginkaku-ji at the northern terminus.) Nanzen-ji is home to many fine gardens, but the courtyards surrounding the Hojo or Abbot's Quarters are considered national treasures (along with its interior paintings.) The Hojo garden is in the karesansui Zen style like its more famous cousin at Ryoan-ji. Popularly called "sand-box" gardens in the West, karesansui gardens are usually composed of rocks and raked sand which symbolize mountains and  the sea. Moss and plants were often used to create the illusion of islands.  Japanese gardens were enormously influenced by classical Chinese landscape paintings and the rocks in the karesansui gardens were sometimes given names, often after famous mountains in China. 

The San-mon or gate of Nanzen-ji. It is considered a classic example of the "gateless gate" of Zen.


The Hojo. I love this exterior walkway and the surrounding gardens - so precise, yet natural feeling.


The karesansui garden of the Hojo.


A closer view of the rock arrangement.


The eternal echo of the waves.


Another rock detail.


Jizo statues with their bibs.


A walkway detail from the Nanzen-ji complex. I love the use of geometry here.


Nanzen-in, another of the sub-temples and gardens of Nanzen-ji.


A walkway detail at Nanzen-in, note the mixture of shapes and forms - including the one long stone on the lower left that is both "natural" and perfectly cut.


A meditation room at Nanzen-in.


Lantern at Nanzen-in.

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