Japanese Zen gardens actually have very little plant material. There is no pond and no river. It represents the Zen Buddhist philosophy and helps in meditation. It also teaches the principles of religion. Materials usually consist of rock, gravel, sand, and maybe some moss. Ryoanji is the Zen temple most famous for its rock garden. Stones are more important to the Japanese than trees. Rocks may be handed down from generation to generation.
In Zen gardens of all kinds stone is the major element. There are three types of Japanese Zen gardens. The Tsukiyama or hill garden, the Karesansui or dry garden and the Chaniwa or tea garden which is built for the tea ceremony. All of these gardens incorporate rocks.
The idea of a Zen garden is the simplicity of design. This adds dignity and grace to the Japanese garden. Everything placed in the garden symbolizes something. Rocks represent a sense of power and desire or can symbolize a feeling of tranquillity, depending on the shape of the rock.
There are five classes of stone shapes. The radio is a tall vertical rock, the reishi is low vertical, the shiny is arching, the shinai is flat and the kikyaku is reclining. Each shape is carefully chosen and placed to create an idealized conception of nature along with the artistic feeling of the creator.
All Zen gardens should provide a place for quiet reflection and contemplation. Zen gardens are not to be entered, especially the sand areas which are carefully raked into circles signifying water ripples. Instead every Zen garden should be viewed from a distance where you can then understand the meaning of the whole garden.
Natural elements and man made architectural elements like bridges, pathways and lanterns make up the Zen garden. Remember that you can have a bridge without water being added. Rocks can line the dry river bed instead. The lanterns used are called tachi-gata.
They are usually stone pedestal lanterns. Metal items are usually not used. Wood items and stone material are more commonly used in Zen gardens. When designing a Japanese Zen rock garden learn the meaning of each element that is incorporated just as the one you may see in Japan. Find a good supplier of Zen garden products and figure out what the meaning you wish to convey will be.
You may find good Zen products at your local garden supply nursery. Acquire rocks that symbolize your feelings and create your own Japanese Zen rock garden. You will get many enjoyable hours meditating and getting close to nature.
The location for a Zen rock garden is important. It can be next to a flower garden or perennial garden. Put in a comfortable bench from a good viewing point slightly above your Zen garden. It will be fairly easy to maintain. The sand area will need to be raked now and then to keep the debris out of it. A Zen garden will last a lifetime, so choose a place that can be tranquil and peaceful.
Rocks look more natural when buried about one third into the earth. Place in odd numbers and if going down a slope keep the larger rocks toward the top and smaller ones toward the bottom of the slope. This will make it look as though they naturally rolled down the hill and eroded as they went down, making them smaller and smaller.