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The Zen garden has a long and impressive history and in fact, there are several different types of Zen garden.  The most famous is the dry garden, which is called Karesansui.  This word translates into “dry mountain, and water garden” and to create the look, rocks and gravel are used. 

This type of Zen garden is designed in such a way that the raked gravel resembles water.  Then to create the look of water flowing, small rocks, pebbles, and sand are used.  Often in the dry Zen garden, you will see one large rock that is the predominant feature.  This rock is representative of the mountains that tower over the countryside.  With this type of garden, it is believed that the stillness of the “water”, being the gravel is the peace and tranquility of the mind.  In ancient China, Zen priests would take the majestic view of the mountainside and create the Zen garden based upon Shakkei, which translates to “borrowed scenery”. 

Another type of Zen garden is one that is lush and green, and interestingly, would often be designed as a compliment to the dry Zen garden.  This type of garden creates a magical illusion of a long journey found within a specific space.  Many of the gardens have paths that meander through the garden, making their way around beautiful trees and shrubs as well as over streams and near waterfalls and statues.  Each twist and turn of the path is designed to keep the individual’s mind on the spiritual journey. 

The Zen garden has been a major part of history for centuries.  However, they did not evolve into what we know them to be until the late 6th Century.  Most of the early Zen gardens were quite large and provided the opportunity for Buddha Priests to stroll throughout the garden.  Then in the 11th Century, the dry landscape was adopted.  It was then in the 13th Century that the principles of the Zen garden were finally established to what we know them to be today. 

You might hear people refer to a Zen garden as a Strolling Garden, Dry Garden, Japanese Garden, and other names, which are all aspects or have a connection to the Zen garden.  The purpose of the Zen garden is to provide a place of meditation and contemplation.  When the Zen garden was first created by a Zen priest, it was actually called a Contemplation Garden, or Kansho-niwa.  It was here in the United States that the term “Zen” began. 

The nice thing about a Zen garden is that you do not need to have a huge piece of property to create one of your own.  In fact, there is even Zen gardens so small they can fit on an office desk.  It is not about the size of the garden but the elements.  Whether creating a Zen garden inside your home or outside, you will feel the peace and tranquility projected from this type of garden.


 

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