Kyoto's Ryoan-ji Temple

Marvel at the mysteries of Japan's famous rock garden

By Shozo Fujii    - 2 min read

At the foot of Kinugasayama is the famed Ryoan-ji temple with its rock garden, Bojotei-en. Ryoan-ji is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site since it is one of ancient Kyoto’s cultural assets. This particular garden represents the typical Japanese rock garden which features spectacular scenic views. It is said that no matter where you look in the garden, you are unable to see all of the rocks in one glance since one rock is always hidden behind another. However, it is rumored that you can view all of the rocks from the middle of the garden, but since visitors are not allowed to enter, there is no way to know for sure.

The garden measures about 22 meters long and 10 meters wide and is packed with finely raked white sand. There are fifteen rocks of various sizes which at first glance seem to have been placed with no meaning at all. However, the number of rocks is significant since the number fifteen represents perfection in Eastern culture. Supposedly, this originated from the idea that on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar year, you can see a full moon, i.e. the perfect moon. However, if one feels complete, it’s only a matter of time until everything unravels. Therefore, the garden’s landscapers designed the garden in a way where one could only view fourteen out of the fifteen rocks. In order to get a better idea of the Zen aspects of the garden, one has to view it with one’s own eyes.

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Ellery Smith

Ellery Smith @ellery.smith

Original by Shozo Fujii