What exactly is a "Zen" garden?

“A zen garden is a representation of the natural world. Instead of using ponds or streams as in the wild, a zen garden uses rock formations, white sand, moss and pruned trees. It can also be simply a beautiful stone arrangement in light sand, with no growing plants or water at all.”


“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.[1] 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”.[2]

  • 1. Ono Kenkichi and Walter Edwards: "Bilingual (English and Japanese) Dictionary of Japanese Garden Terms (Karesansui. p. 20) from Kansai Main Pageocess, Nara 2001 The Karesansui definition was extracted with permission from The on-line "living" guide to realize a Zen garden by P.M. Patings.

  • 2,  Gunter Nitschke, Le Jardin japonais, pg. 65.

Zen gardens originated in China and soon found their way to Japan via Buddhist iteration welcomed by the Samurai class for its self-discipline nature.