Zen Gardens in Urban Spaces

January, 2017
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Zen Gardens were developed to aid in the meditation process. The garden’s main function is to find serenity away from the crowds and thus allow the mind to reflect on the meaning of life. Some cities around the world have developed a Zen garden in high traffic areas for their citizens to bring back a sense of harmony and balance in their lives and also to transport them to a world they may or may not know.

Origins

Zen gardens or Japanese rock gardens first existed in the Heian period (784-1185) and mimicked the Chinese gardens of the Song Dynasty (960-1279). However, the creation of the classical Zen garden came from the temple of Zen Buddhism in Kyoto, Japan during the Muromachi period (1336 -1573) around the same time when the Renaissance was taking place in Europe. The popularity of the classical Zen garden was promoted by the warrior class (Warlords and Samurai). They admired the doctrine of self discipline that was exhibited by the Buddhist monks and the self reflection that the garden brought. To have a Zen garden was considered to be the height of culture during that period.

Elements

A Zen garden is a dry landscape garden made of sand or gravel that is raked to resemble ripples of water. These garden elements will likely have moss, bushes, pruned trees and a variety of water features with certain well positioned seating areas, at times, enclosed by walls.  The philosophy behind this need to appreciate nature is best described in a novel by Durian Sukegawa, when his protagonist - Tokue, shares an almost mystic relationship with nature and explains "We were born into this world to see it and to listen to it" (Sweet Bean, 2015)

The Mood

Upon entering a Zen garden, a feeling of calm, beauty and self reflection overwhelms the senses. This garden can put you at ease viewing the pinpoint precision that every element has a specific place because it was meant to be there.

The Zen gardens that I visited have the same things in common but are all unique in their presentation. Zen gardens are a wonderful way to aid in the meditation process and to bring a life balance that we all need in our lives. So, go discover the beauty of Zen philosophy that hopefully awaits you in your own backyard.

 

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