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The Japanese rock garden (枯山水 karesansui?) or "dry landscape" garden, often called a zen garden, creates a miniature stylized landscape through carefully composed arrangements of rocks, water features, moss, pruned trees and bushes, and uses gravel or sand that is raked to represent ripples in water. A zen garden is usually relatively small, surrounded by a wall, and is usually meant to be seen while seated from a single viewpoint outside the garden, such as the porch of the hojo, the residence of the chief monk of the temple or monastery. Classical zen gardens were created at temples of Zen Buddhism in Kyoto during the Muromachi period. They were intended to imitate the intimate essence of nature, not its actual appearance, and to serve as an aid to meditation about the true meaning of life.
Rock gardens existed in Japan at least since the Heian period (784–1185). These early gardens were described in the first manual of Japanese gardens, Sakuteiki (Records of Garden Keeping), written at the end of the 11th century by Tachibana no Toshitsuna (1028–1094). They were largely copied from the Chinese gardens of the Song Dynasty (960–1279), where groups of rocks symbolized Mount Penglai, the legendary mountain-island home of the Eight Immortals in Chinese mythology, known in Japanese as Horai. The Sakuteiki described exactly how rocks should be placed. In one passage, he wrote: "In a place where there is neither a lake or a stream, one can put in place what is called a kare-sansui, or dry landscape". This kind of garden featured either rocks placed upright like mountains, or laid out in a miniature landscape of hills and ravines, with few plants. He described several other styles of rock garden, which usually included a stream or pond, including the great river style, the mountain river style, and the marsh style. The ocean style featured rocks that appeared to have been eroded by waves, surrounded by a bank of white sand, like a beach.
Saihō-ji, or the Moss Garden, an early zen garden from the mid-14th century. The moss arrived much later, when the garden was not tended.
Part of the garden at Ryōan-ji (late 15th century), the most abstract of all Japanese zen gardens
In the garden of Daisen-in, a river of gravel takes visitors on a metaphorical journey through life
In Zuiho-in garden, - some of the rocks are said to form a cross. The garden was built by the daimyo Ōtomo Sōrin, who was a convert to Christianity.
Shitennō-ji Honbō garden
A small garden in the Japanese Tea Garden of Golden Gate Park, in San Francisco
Sand and stone garden located in the Portland Japanese Gardens.
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