Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto

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  • Ryoanji Temple
    by Ewingjr98
  • Ryoanji Temple
    by Ewingjr98
  • Ryoanji Temple
    by Ewingjr98
  • Orchid's Profile Photo

    I am a Rock.....

    by Orchid Written Oct 4, 2014

    Ryōanji(龍安寺) is the site of Japan's most famous rock garden. Because the garden is so popular, a quiet contemplative consideration of the meaning of these 15 rocks, arranged in small groups on patches of moss, in a walled rectangular field of raked pebbles, can be hard to obtain. Your best chance for a little tranquility is to visit early in the morning. Opening time is 8am in summer (half an hour later in winter). The meaning of the rock garden is open to conjecture. Some believe that the garden represents the common theme of a tiger carrying cubs across a pond or of islands in a sea, while others claim that the garden represents an abstract concept like infinity. It is up to you to come up with your own theory. Just try not to let the crowds lined up 3 deep on the viewing area taking selfies distract you! Your zen moment awaits.Then perhaps having obtained peace, you will be able to perceive the 15th rock, which for the unenlightened in forever obscured.

    The viewing area is part of the Hojo, the head priest's former residence. In addition to the rock garden, the building contains painted screens the sliding doors of its tatami rooms, and carved beasts decorating the doorways. Behind the Hojo are a couple of small gardens, one of which features a round stone trough, incorporating its square water basin into a zen inscription 'I learn only to be contented'.

    Do not forget to enjoy the beautiful garden surrounding the temple, with its ornamental lake, bridges and walking paths. The crowds gathered at the rock garden just evaporate into these fine green spaces, and peace may finally be found.

    Entry in 2014 was 500 yen

    Islands in a stony sea perhaps... Mythical beast on the door Painted screens in the Hojo Be contented with the learning Around the lakeshore
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    Ryoanji Temple.

    by IreneMcKay Written May 5, 2014

    Ryoanji Temple is the site of Japan's most famous rock garden, but I must admit, great philistine that I am, I was not overly impressed by it. I vastly preferred the wonderful pond area nearby.

    Ryoanji Temple was built originally as an aristocrat's villa. It was converted into a Zen temple in 1450. It belongs to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism.

    The famous rock garden contains 15 rocks. These are set out in small groups on top of patches of moss. The meaning of the garden is unknown, so it is up to the viewer's own imagination to interpret it.

    Ryoanji's temple grounds are stunning. They centre around a large pond which reflects the wonderful trees and plants which surround it. I loved this area of the temple.

    Ryoanji Temple. Ryoanji Temple.
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    Ryoan-ji Temple: the Zen garden and pavilion

    by toonsarah Written Dec 18, 2013

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    I am fascinated by the different forms of Japanese garden design and wanted to see as varied a sample as possible in our limited time in Kyoto. I read about the famous Zen garden at Ryoan-ji Temple and knew it would give us a different perspective on this ancient art. And so it did.

    This style of garden dates from a period in Japanese history when interest in Zen Buddhism was at its height, in the late 14th-16th centuries. At this time gardens became smaller, simpler and more minimalist, but most retained many of the same elements as before, including ponds, islands, bridges and waterfalls. However, an extremely minimalist version emerged, the Karesansui dry garden, which uses nothing but rocks, gravel and sand to represent all the elements of the landscape. This example at Ryoan-ji is one of the most famous in the country.

    It is rectangular in shape, enclosed by a clay wall. Arranged within it are fifteen stones of different sizes, composed in five groups: one group of five stones, two groups of three, and two groups of two stones. These stones are surrounded by white gravel which is carefully raked each day by the monks. The only vegetation is some moss surrounding each group of stones. The garden is intended to be viewed from a seated position on the veranda of the hōjō, the pavilion that serves as the residence of the head priest.

    At first glance it may seem random, though elegant in its design. But everything is very deliberate. The stones are placed in such a way that it is impossible to see the entire composition at once from the veranda. They are also arranged so that when looking at the garden from any angle (other than from above) only fourteen are visible at a time. Tradition holds that only through attaining enlightenment could a person view all fifteen.

    And the wall too is part of the design. The clay has been mixed with rapeseed oil to give these brown and rust-coloured tones, intended to set off the whiteness of the gravel by absorbing light, and to create a neutral background that focuses attention on the stones.

    It isn’t known who designed this garden, and although there are many theories, no one can say for sure what it is intended to represent. Some say it is an abstraction of a tiger and her cubs crossing a river, but that appears to refer to an earlier version of the garden that had only nine stones. Some say these are small islands in the ocean, or mountain peaks emerging through a sea of cloud. Others have suggested that the arrangement of the rocks relates to the character for “heart” or that there is some hidden geometry behind them. It is probably best to simply accept that they are as they are because someone wanted them to look exactly like this, rather than minimise their potential impact by straining to find an unintended meaning.

    You cannot go inside the pavilion here but instead walk around its veranda (shoes off, naturally) to view the famous garden from a platform. Be warned – this is a popular spot and you may need to wait your turn to view it from a perch at the edge. While you wait you can peer inside to see the beautifully painted screens (photo four).

    On the far side of the pavilion (that is, away from the garden) the building is surrounded by trees and moss, and there is a famous stone washbasin (photo five) known as Tsukubai, which is said to have been contributed to the temple by Tokugawa Mitsukuni in the 17th century. It has a simple but meaningful four-character Zen inscription: "I learn only to be contented".

    When we’d walked right round the pavilion we went on to explore the rest of the gardens here.

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    Ryoan-ji Temple: the rest of the gardens

    by toonsarah Updated Dec 18, 2013

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    Although Ryoan-ji Temple is best known for its Zen dry garden, there is much more to it than that. Its pretty pond garden is also well worth exploring, and its lush greenery all the more refreshing as a contrast to the white gravel and bare rocks of the former. This is Kyoyochi Pond, built in the 12th century when this site still served as an aristocrat's villa. There are large carp, white ducks and (when we were there in mid October) pink water lilies. The path round the pond leads past the small stone bridge that will take you on to the islet with a little torii gate and shrine, and past a large stone Buddha statue (photo five).

    The leaves were just starting to turn when we were here, adding to the beauty of the scene. Towards the end of our walk we came across a small café where we sat outside and had one of the most refreshing drinks I’ve come across – a sort of lemonade with a blob of what tasted like marmalade in the bottom of the glass. I don’t know what this was called – a waiter with limited English helped us to order from the “pay first and take a slip” machine, and all we knew for sure was that we were ordering a cold drink that wasn’t cola! We sat outside on shady benches and enjoyed a pleasant rest before heading off to our last temple for the day, Kinkaku-ji.

    Kyoyochi Pond Kyoyochi Pond
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  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo

    Ryoanji Zen Buddhist Temple and Gardens

    by Ewingjr98 Written Oct 18, 2013

    Ryoanji Temple is a Zen Buddhist temple of the Rinzai Sect. The temple features a large, lily-covered pond near the entrance, with a temple on an island; a famous Zen garden crowded with tourists; and lots of trails through moss-covered forests. In 1994 this temple was added as one of the Kyoto World Heritage Sites.

    The temple was established in 1450 on the site of a country house belonging to the Tokudaiji Clan. The temple was soon destroyed in the Onin War, but it was rebuilt in 1499. The Zen garden, called Hojo Garden, features only gravel and 15 rocks, but it is said to represent nature (some say the garden garden resembles a tiger and its cub crossing a stream).

    Entrance is 500 Yen for adults. The temple can be access from the Renden Streetcar Line at Ryoanju Station.

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  • jlanza29's Profile Photo

    One of many World Heritage sites in Kyoto

    by jlanza29 Written May 5, 2012

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    It is Japan's most famous "hiraniwa" (flat garden void of hills or ponds) and reveals the stunning simplicity and harmony of the principles of Zen meditation.

    Ryoan-ji Temple is famous for its mysterious rock garden, the most celebrated in Japan, which defies attempts at explanation. Enclosed by an earthen wall, fifteen carefully placed rocks seem to drift in a sea of raked white gravel. A viewing platform right above the garden gives visitors an unimpeded view, although from whatever angle you view the garden, you can never see all fifteen stones.

    After sitting and pondering the garden's "sermon in stone," you can stretch your legs by touring the extensive grounds of Ryoan-ji Temple, which includes larger gardens with trees and moss, and the Kyoyo-chi pond, which is particularly striking in autumn. Once refreshed, you can return to the rock garden for another look before leaving.

    The temple was built in 1450 by a nobleman, Hosokawa Katsumoto, but no one knows for certain when the rock garden was made, who designed it, or what the designer's intentions were. So what does the rock garden signify? You can only find out by seeing it for yourself.

    I must say this was one of the might have been the most beautiful and peaceful place of all the beautiful temples and gardens we visited ..... all you heard was bird's chirping and the wind against the trees !!!!!

    As for the rock garden I was a bit confused, I was expecting something so different but one must adjust quickly and appreciate how beautiful it really is !!!!!

    Admission to grounds are free but to Rock Garden it's 500 yens and you must remove your shoes ... spent about an hour here .....

    Famous Rock Garden As peaceful as it can get !!!!!

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  • Toshioohsako's Profile Photo

    Temple of enlightenment

    by Toshioohsako Written Dec 12, 2010

    Ryoanji (The Temple of the Dragon at Peace) is a Zen temple (1450), located ibn the Northwest of Kyoto. Its famous "Karesansui" rock garden (UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage Site) is consists of 15 moss-covered boulders. Its a place for meditation and enlightenment. The interior of the "Kur"-the main temple building is a well-conserved house and one can see the essence of Japanese house architecture. The garden is superb with a beautiful bridge and a large pond. Its a good place for promenade.

    Rock garden Rockgarden Kuri main temple Garde Garden pond

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    by thinking Written Jul 14, 2010

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    In December 1994, this temple was designated as World Heritage by UNESCO. Ryoanji (Temple of the peaceful dragon) is in the northwest section of Kyoto, not far from Kinkakuji. This is a temple belonging to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai branch of the Zen sect.

    For a wonderful description, please see http://www.yamasa.org/japan/english/destinations/kyoto/ryoanji.html

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    by bladedragon Updated Jun 30, 2009

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    Hosokawa emperors (Uda, Kazan, Ichij¡§¡©, Go-Suzaku, Go-Reizei, Go-Sanj¡§¡©, and Horikawa) are enshrined in what are today known as the "Seven Imperial Tombs" at Ryoan-ji.

    An object of interest near the rear of the monks quarters is the carved stone receptacle into which water for ritual purification continuously flows. This is the Ry¡§¡©an-ji tsukubai, which translates literally as "crouch;" and the lower elevation of the basin requires the user to bend a little bit to reach the water, which suggests supplication and reverence. The kanji written on the surface of the stone are without significance when read alone. If each is read in combination with Ï¢ (kuchi), which the central bowl is meant to represent, then the characters become çî, êæ, ðë, ò±. This is read as "ware tada taru (wo) shiru" and translates literally as "I only know plenty" (çî = ware = I, êæ = tada = only, ðë = taru = plenty, ò± = shiru = know).
    The meaning of the phrase carved into the top of the tsukubai is simply that "what one has is all one needs" and is meant to reinforce the basic anti-materialistic teachings of Buddhism.
    The absence of a dipper is intended to imply that the water is for the soul only and that it is necessary to bend the knee in humility in order to receive its blessing.

    To many, the temple's name is synonymous with the temple's famous karesansui (dry landscape) rock garden, thought to have been built in the late 1400s. The garden consists of raked gravel and fifteen moss-covered boulders, which are placed so that, when looking at the garden from any angle (other than from above) only fourteen of the boulders are visible at one time. It is traditionally said that only through attaining enlightenment would one be able to view the fifteenth boulder.

    Ryoan-ji Ryoan-ji map

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    Travel With the Blind

    by Rabbityama Updated Jan 11, 2009

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    Although I've never personally gone touring with a blind person, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to find places that a blind person can enjoy. If you have struggled to find such places in Japan, Ryoanji may be just what you are looking for!

    Just before entering the famous Zen rock garden in Ryoanji, if you take the time to look around, there is a small recreation of the rock garden a few paces from the souvenir shop. If you wonder what this is for, it is a brilliant recreation of Ryoanji's rock garden made for those who are blind! You are allowed to touch this tiny recreation of the zen garden, so a blind traveller can feel EXACTLY where each rock is located and how the garden is layed out. There is brail there, as well however, in the event that the brail is only Japanese brail, you can use the brochures and pamphlets you received when you payed to enter to read to the blind person as they feel the rocks. Because of this wonderful replica of the garden, blind travellers can appreciate the beauty and aesthetic value of Ryoanji the same as anyone else! There are not so many places in Japan that cater to blind tourists, so Ryoanji could easily be the highlight of a trip to Japan for a blind traveller!

    Entry fee is 500 yen.

    Ryoanji's Zen Rock Garden Ryoanji Autumn Foliage at Ryoanji Foliage at Ryoanji Ryoanji's Lake
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    by RACCOON1 Updated Oct 11, 2007

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    A ZEN BUDDHIST Rock Garden established in and around 1480. Measures approximately 10 meters by 24 meters with 15 rocks on a raked stone base.

    Its shoes off to enter the complex.

    The meaning is:
    (1) Unknown
    (2) up to the vistors interpretation
    (3) or - " you cannot see all rocks as separated entities " When you become enlightened you are able to see the 15 rocks as separated entities.
    (4) many others.

    Regarding # 3. You can only view the garden from one side so the hypothesis cannot be confirmed or proven. The viewing area is elevated which gives you an advantage and you can see all 15 rocks.But you cannot see rocks #14 and #15 as separate entities.

    The surrounding Garden is worth a walk.

    After RYOAN-JI its a short walk down hill to the Ninnaji Temple.


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    The Perfect Garden

    by Gryphon25 Written Oct 6, 2007

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    This Zen Garden is ment to be the best or perfect zen Garden in Japan. It is very quite and peaceful. Take a walk around the whole temple. To the one side there is an over hanging of trees and the moss underneath looks as soft as a mattress. Take your time and mediate if you know how.

    Cost Y 500

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  • yukisanto's Profile Photo

    When you need time to daydream

    by yukisanto Written Feb 1, 2007

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    Ryoanji is basically just a simple building with the famous zen garden - nothing else to see. That said, go and see it - it's' a good place to daydream if you don't want to sit and guess at the number of stones you can see. It's said you can't see all 15 stones at any angle, but of course that's the way it'll be when you hide small stones behind big stones.

    It's 15mins west of kinkakuji and 10min east of ninnaji. Cost 500yen. Opens from 8-5pm
    Take bus 205 from kyoto station

    building of ryoanji miniature model of the zen garden the other side of Ryoanji

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    Ryoanji Temple - Zen and meditation

    by SLLiew Written Aug 23, 2006

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    This is my second favorite temple in Kyoto. I wish there was more time to just sit and contemplate looking at the rocks placed in a sea of raked designed fine gravel sand. There are like a world of islands in the sea. I also like the moss gardens and the gardens of this temple. You probably have seen many pictures of Ryoanji but spend a few minutes here when you are in Kyoto. It is one of a kind temple.

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    by caravaggio Written Jul 28, 2006

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    One of the famous ji's or pavillıons or temples:) of kyoto and also japan. It has got a very huge lake in its garden and you can also get into the temple. Its just below (5min walk) from Golden temple. You will meet many tourists and cant find much more interesting than its stone garden.

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