The creation of the perfect Zen garden requires a good knowledge of Japanese culture or at least a basic smattering. The true Japanese garden does not, in fact, have a merely aesthetic function, but each natural element present in it has a precise meaning.
Able to infuse serenity and harmony, a true Japanese garden is made up of three elements:
- water, the symbol of life, without which we cannot survive. Just like the rising and setting of the sun, the water must flow from east to west or be still.
- the rocks, or the point of the garden where peace reigns. Roundish shapes are to be favoured, placing rocks of considerable size so as to give the impression of having been there from time immemorial. These minerals play a leading role, so much so that their choice is considered an art.
- green, present throughout the year, such as moss or fern-like green plants. The flowers are few, in general camellias, rhododendrons or azaleas.
It will also be possible to place a bridge, some Japanese lanterns and a statue of Buddha, a few essential elements that will guide everyone to the rediscovery of simplicity.
Cultivating a Zen garden means cultivating one’s soul and personality in a continuous growth path. In the East, the cultivation of gardens is a real art aimed at not making human intervention perceptible. Nature reigns supreme, simple and spontaneous, while man is relegated to a silent and respectful presence. Harmony and balance will, therefore, be the keywords in the process of setting up a real Zen garden. In it, the vastness of the world and of nature will be reduced to a few, simple and essential elements.
Basic principles for setting up
The Zen garden is deeply linked to Japanese Zen culture. It is a place full of meanings in which to rediscover well-being surrounded by natural elements. Based on Feng Shui we will take care to create a harmonious garden, possibly placing it near a domestic space. In this way, the radiated vital energy (the Ch’i) will be able to counteract the negative energy.
There are different styles of a Japanese garden, the most famous of which is the Karesansui or dry garden. The name derives from the material with which it is set up, mainly stones and white sand, although there is no lack of some green areas. The Karesansui is an essential garden, minimalist in form and composition. To set it up we will not choose the common sand but white granite that will cover most of the surface, illuminating it. Thanks to a simple rake you will have the possibility to trace continuous lines, without ever stopping the instrument, in order to create harmonious paths. Symbol of creativity, this tool will allow us to trace our inner world directly on the surface of the garden. Many Zen gardens bring numerous wavy lines around the boulders, so as to show a particular concept or the passage from the sea, towards a different point of view.
After placing the white granite, we can choose the stones to be placed on the surface. First of all, the stones will not only be placed on the ground but buried at the base, so that the centre of gravity will be at the bottom, giving visitors a sense of security. The stones are in fact a symbol of strength, transmitting this concept referring to the solidity and eternity of the mountains. The meaning of the stones changes if they are placed in the water so that in this case they will symbolize the many obstacles that a person will encounter on his way.
Based on Feng Shui, the ancient art of furnishing in harmony with the energy of the universe, plants will be chosen mainly among the local vegetation, paying attention to the symbolic meaning of each species. Green plants will be privileged rather than flowers, this is because the Zen garden differs markedly from our Western conception, re-proposing the surrounding environment with few gestures and elements. We will, therefore, choose among mosses, lichens and ferns, but also bonsai, evergreen shrubs and plants. Among the few trees found in Zen gardens, the Japanese maple is very widespread, able to symbolize the impermanence of what surrounds us because when the autumn season arrives it loses its leaves.
Drinking fountains and ponds symbolize fortune in the economic field, as long as you don’t want to overdo it: in this case, the water would symbolize a universe of tears. Alternatively, you can use simple gravel instead of water, taking care to create wavy shapes with the rake.