Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Ryoan-ji was the last place of interest I visited in Kyoto. I have seen photographs of it, watched documentaries and read interpretations of its meaning. I thought that all this prior knowledge would act as a spoiler, but I was wrong. Ryoan-ji still blew me away. I just sat there and did what most people do – look at it in contemplation. The image above shows the kare-sansui (rock garden) of Ryoan-ji as you enter the garden-viewing side of Kuri (the main building). The kare-sansui is about five hundred years old and its original designer is unknown. Its design may have changed over the centuries as well. The image below shows how the rocks are positioned in relation to each other.
Images below show close-ups of each group of rocks. These images also show the wall surrounding the garden. Apparently, the wall is made of clay boiled in oil and the patterns on the wall are formed by the oil leaching out over a long period of time.
The kare-sansui was built for viewing from the Kuri – Ryoan-ji’s main building. Images below show the entrance to the Kuri (image below left) and its interior with beautifully painted shōji (dividing screens) (below middle). There is a tea house called Zaroku at the back of the Kuri. Its roja (tea garden) adjoins the Kuri and featues a famous tsukubai (water basin) (below right). The tsukubai has four characters inscribed on it which can be translated as “I only know what I need”.
The rest of the temple grounds are quite charming with graceful buildings, moss laden parkland and stone pathways (images below).
Another feature of the temple is a large pond called Kyoyochi (images below). It offers delightful views, which I am guessing are even more spectacular in autumn colour or during cherry blossom.
Visit to Ryoan-ji certainly was a strong finish for my short stay in Kyoto.