The Early Modern World, C. 1300–1600

Art and Zen Buddhism

What is a zen garden?

Zen is a Japanese form of Buddhism that emphasizes meditation as a method of breaking free of everyday distractions to reach enlightenment. (In China, this is known as Chan Buddhism.) Zen gardens are an important part of the Buddhist tradition, as they are thought to aid in meditation and facilitate a sense of calm. The Saihoji temple in Kyoto, Japan, is sometimes called the Moss Temple because of its meticulously manicured moss gardens. The temple was founded in the eighth century, and its gardens were redesigned according to Zen philosophies during the Muromachi period in the fourteenth century. Monks meditate in the mossy lower gardens, while rocks dominate the upper gardens, suggesting the drama of mountains. Some Zen gardens focus completely on rock arrangements, such as the rock garden at the Ryoanji Temple in Japan.


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