What is a zen GARDEN?
The Zen garden is the very illustration of the minimalist spirit and highlights minerals. If you can spend time and walk around in the Japanese garden, the Zen garden is made to be looked at and therefore generally occupies a tiny area.
Authenticity and plenitude here are the two words that can translate your desire to make a Japanese Zen garden on your exterior. Designing a garden is not within everyone’s reach; respecting the principles of Zen gardens is fundamental.
A Japanese garden aims to create an atmosphere of tranquillity and plenitude. Your Japanese garden must be a work of art; it must be contemplated and allow meditation.
This is why your Japanese garden is made up of natural elements, such as wood, natural stone, water, and vegetable plants.
Another principle dear to the decoration and design of a Japanese garden is the fundamental principle of odd numbers. For the Japanese steps, the arrangement of the rocks or the planting of the plants, a Japanese garden requires an odd number of preferences: either 3, 5 or 7 but never more!
Emotions represent the paths that living beings travel in their existence. They represent the engine of our life, and, positive or negative, the emotional states lead us towards our goals and guide us in our choices. Nature has always aroused strong emotions, giving us atavistic sensations engraved in our conscience.
Emotions are also at the root of our spirituality, and it is precisely on the emotional transport that loves and religions are born. Like all primary sensations, emotions arise from deep within and are absolutely and exclusively personal.
The Zen garden explores these areas and is designed and built with the close participation of the people who will have to live there.
Talking about a Zen garden project is improper; these gardens must certainly be designed, but this is only one of the phases that will realise. The Zen garden must first be thought about; its central theme is never generic and can touch therapeutic, harmonic, existential and even erotic areas.
Thinking about these gardens means equipping oneself with interior tools capable of transferring the customer’s emotional needs in a space and making them come alive.
To go into detail, the space occupied by the Zen garden becomes the container of a specific state of mind, a particular emotional condition or a simple private need of our soul. A particular sector of the technical studio of Bast Landscape Design is dedicated explicitly to these specific gardens.
The people who work in this area are not just designers; we like to define them as people with high technical skills and have a deep sensitivity and predisposition to listening.
From the intuitions and sensations of these “simple” people and the relationship they manage to establish with the customer, these gardens are born specially designed to shape an emotion. We are always available to learn more about this particular topic; contact us and request a personalised appointment.
What is a Zen garden or a Japanese garden?
The term first appeared in One Hundred Kyoto Gardens, a 1935 book by Loraine Kuck. Many say the term is inaccurate; the typical Japanese garden takes the name of Karesansui in Italian dry garden or, better still, lovely garden. Zen Garden would therefore be a Western invention, but the Orientals also began to use the term as a generic noun to be understood.
However, karesansui is not the only name used to indicate this particular type of Japanese garden; several terms express different meanings and aspects of the garden itself. First of all, we have Sansui, which means its nature, as we will see better later with the Zen garden, we try to faithfully reproduce a mountain or maritime landscape and all the elements inserted, even if worked, should have a free-range aspect, as if they were taken directly. From a natural context. Then, we can also hear about kasansui, which means temporary garden; this refers to the fact that this type of garden is mobile; it can be changed whenever you want, especially if you decide to create a table garden. Another aspect that kasansui takes as a reference is the mobility of material life which is opposed to static, firm and robust spirituality.
And again, Furusansui, that is ancient nature, the idea here refers precisely to the firmness, strength and wisdom of nature, which is the pillar of all Zen philosophy.
Arasansui, on the other hand, means dried nature, precisely recalling the setting created using rocks and sand and the total absence of water in the dry garden. These are primarily abstract and philosophical concepts that, in reality, rather than refer concretely to the material aspects of the Japanese garden, are linked to its ideology.
Initially, they were gardens located outside the noble palaces, but they had not yet reached their maximum splendour and diffusion. They were not considered spiritual places that refer to Zen philosophy; they symbolised grandeur and wealth. They began to take on importance only when set up around Buddhist monasteries. They were used as a place of detachment from reality from the first moment as if they represented a world unto itself.
The Karesansui is easily identifiable since there is no water inside it. As we will see later, the natural elements are essential and are the absolute protagonists.
The creation of the gardens without water allowed them to spread like wildfire since they could also be set up in places without water and where it was not possible to insert irrigation systems.
To make up for this lack, white pebbles were introduced, expanses were modelled to simulate the waves and movements of the water. If you think of the Zen garden, you may also have in mind the image of a rake; it is not a famous invention; it is used to create drawings on the sand.
What is a Zen garden for body, mind and sensations?
Generally speaking, Zen gardens are places rich in spirituality that favour meditation thanks to the total absence of artificial noises. There are many types; they are highly minimalist gardens, also called stone gardens. This is because the water, small fountains and some plants are replaced by stones, rocks and sand, which they try to give the shape of the elements they return. If you do not choose small white pebbles, you prefer rocks with a very natural shape and colour. It is no coincidence that this garden is called a “dry Zen garden”. Although the arrangement of the elements gives the idea of being a random space, in reality, everything has a precise position.
We have understood that these gardens have an aesthetic function and are suitable for Zen meditation. The minimal environment gives that feeling of tranquillity, simplicity and serenity of mind, which is essential to achieve perfect inner peace. The Zen garden is naturocentric. All life revolves around nature, and it is thanks to it that everything exists; its strength is uncontrollable: it can build from nothing and destroy in a moment, but only in it can you find the answers and reach the true and pure meaning of life.
To detach oneself from earthly life, one focuses on what surrounds man. The idea is to feel like beings part of a higher order. It is a symbolic garden with little to do with decoration or pomp in its original concept; Zen philosophy differs from everything that is not simple and spiritual. The park tries to represent the essence of this ideal.
What are the characteristics of a Zen garden?
First of all, a Zen garden should be minimal. Its main feature is an environment that favours meditation, immersed in nature and simplicity. Another feature of it is that of being a garden that does not reflect the classic canons of Western gardens. Each country has its traditions and styles, and above all, architecture, which largely depends on the culture’s mentality. The oriental gardens, in their extreme charm and enchantment, are generally asymmetrical and composed of elements with an odd number; a curiosity is precisely this; we try to insert objects that can form triangular figures in their composition. Later we will see how to make a Zen garden, but first, we see that there are, especially in some famous Zen gardens, some common elements that we can find even if with some differences in each of them.
- The name is defined as a south garden, different and structured differently depending on the place.
- The shoin, a writing room, is highly typical of Japanese architecture, which we find in various buildings.
- The hōjō is the abbot’s room, generally accompanied by a small courtyard.
- The Kokoro is the heart of the Zen garden, where the whole essence is contained.
These elements are part of a larger architectural and meditation space.
The essential elements that form a Japanese garden
As we have said, Zen gardens have crucial factors that cannot be missing. Before seeing what they are, remember that the essential elements are also only natural elements.
Among these, we find sand and stones whose meaning is water.
Natural elements have a particular meaning:
Stones and rocks represent stability synonymous with inner peace in the individual that can only be achieved through profound reflection and careful meditation.
On the other hand, water represents in its simplicity and, precisely, changeability all that is unstable, changeable and mobile in the world.
None of them has a merely aesthetic function; everything has a sometimes cryptic meaning whose explanation is left to free interpretation. Everyone can see in them a different sense to find the answers he is looking for, leading him to Zen.
However, it is possible to find water; these are special and uncommon places where spirituality and faith are in their most potent form. In particular, the most symbolic is the Shinden-zukuri, a garden with very ancient origins. Different from all the others because inside it there is a large amount of water, generally a lake or a pond of modest size. Compared to the others, it is the most important precisely because it represents and is built in the name of Buddha; in fact, it is not difficult to find several statues that represent the divinity inside.
How to design and make a Zen garden: step by step guide
Creating a Zen garden is not very simple, but it is possible by following a few rules to create one that remembers it very much. Let’s assume that these are spiritual places, certain sensations and meanings are impossible to replicate, but you can aspire to create a Japanese garden where you can relax in complete tranquillity.
Specific guidelines must be followed to create a perfect oasis that can reconcile gardening and meditation, almost like Buddhist monks. An environment of this kind can help get closer to Zen philosophy and find inner peace by building a small corner of personal paradise.
First, it is necessary to conceive and design a Zen garden and, secondly, to insert all the typical and indispensable Zen garden elements.
To begin with, you need to have little-worked rocks in odd numbers. Remember that disparity and asymmetry are also fundamental to give everything a natural look.
It will be necessary to create a small path whose exit should not be visible from the entrance. Generally, it leads to a hidden place such as a small forest.
Evergreen plants will be chosen not to affect the garden during the winter. Generally, female plants are desired, from flowers, to symbolise beauty and fragility on the path. Male plants, lower than the first ones, should be placed at the entrance to the garden, generally consisting of deciduous leaves so that the visitor bows before the Japanese garden.
There are stretches of sand that can be fenced off to keep them in place. However, in many reproductions, fountains can be found that can create a relaxing result.
We understand that creating a full-size Zen garden can be very challenging and expensive, but small table Zen gardens exist.
It won’t be the same but making one and taking care of it is a great way to relax and keep alive a tradition albeit so distant and distant.
Speaking of miniature gardens, we cannot fail to refer to the bonseki. It is a typical Japanese art that consists in creating small gardens on round or square black lacquer trays, on which it is possible to find distinct traditional designs.
Generally represented mountainous or maritime environments, also, in this case, rocks and sand are used to create the objects. A peculiarity of these small gardens lies in the possibility of inserting them inside the small structures made of copper.
In more recent years, they have spread widely. The philosophy behind Bonseki lies not so much in admiring the final result as in the sense of peace and satisfaction that accompanies its realisation.
Creating a Zen garden can be a solution to make a small moment of relaxation. Many of them are mostly temporary, so you can change their shapes and change their appearance at any time.
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