Ancient Japanese incorporated rocks as symbols in their gardens and the tradition remains strong today. Stone settings can represent mountains, islands, rivers, and even people. These Zen gardening techniques are known as “dry landscaping.” They use only rock, sand, moss, and pruned trees—there is no water, but sand or gravel is used to represent the seas. Raking the gravel creates a rippling motion and is very aesthetic looking. It’s a waterless garden using mainly stone arrangements.
Other types of Zen gardens are symbols of living artwork. Trees and bushes grow and mature, but the garden doesn’t change. Only through the work of pruning, can the garden remain static. These Zen gardens are creative and vibrant in their representations. Everything has its place and symbolism, but it all starts with the architecture of the landscape. These gardens frame everything, from terraces and verandas, to pathways and artificial hills. Over time, they become like a painting, some experts will call them “mind-scapes” or worldly cosmic expressions.
Stones and gravel play prominent roles in Zen landscaping. The Japanese believe placement of stones is a primary and important act of gardening. The stone must be placed with its best side showing. If the stone is ugly, then it should be turned to promote its side. In addition to displaying eye-pleasing stones, these gardens exhibit a strong sense of balance. They have horizontal and vertical stones, chasing stones and leaning stones; it’s really the ying and yang of gardening.
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