Rocks & Stones
Rocks and stones bring powerful symbolism to a Zen garden. The creators of Japanese Zen gardens have a strong appreciation of rocks - striking rocks with character.
Rocks and Stones
The timeless quality of rock can be contrasted with the fluid quality of sand – to express both the permanence and changeability of the world. Formations of rock may be composed to resemble a mountain range in miniature, while smaller groups can symbolize the Isles of the Blessed in the Western Seas.
Some of the most popular and powerful rock groupings in Japanese gardens are those that represent the crane and turtle. But these representations remain deliberately vague because it is up to the onlooker of the Zen garden to approach each arrangement of stone individually.
You may put any rocks in the garden you wish – some that are eccentric or fiery, saintly, heroic or flat like a boat.
Rocks once chosen, are not simply placed on the surface but buried two-thirds into the ground, to appear as natural outcrops.
The direction of the rocks edges and ridges and their overall placement in relation to each other are carefully considered to allow the free expression of their natural energy. Rocks are composed of uneven numbers of stones, positioned in a triangular shape to create an asymmetrical balance – a symmetrical balance is considered out of kilter with nature.
The number three is considered auspicious and represents heaven, earth and humanity.
A vertical rock is used to symbolize heaven as the strata of the rock points heavenwards; a rock placed with its breaklines horizontally symbolizes earth; and a diagonally placed rock represents humanity.
Japanese garden masters also regard the numbers seven and five as auspicious and rocks in Zen gardens are arranged with this in mind.
Naturally occurring rocks are never the same shape and size, therefore it would be wrong not to have a variety of differently shaped rocks and boulders in your garden.
Stones are the foundation of the garden.
Gravel and Sand
Sand in the rock garden creates simplicity and serenity. Usually the sand, symbolizing the empty mind, is raked in swirls, resembling the way water edges stones and islands.
The swirls can impart a feeling of raging or gentle lapping water, depending on their design. The sand also symbolizes the ocean around the island of Japan while the rocks placed in the garden, represent Japan itself.
Various colours of sand can also be used as in real rock gardens – black to give an imposing formality, brown for a subdued and refined look and the purest white to set off the rocks even more starkly. Spontaneity and experimentation are the key.
The Zen garden is after all a launching pad – a place to take off from and come back to.