Ryoan-ji is a Zen temple located in the northwest part of Kyoto, Japan. Originally a country house, it was converted into a Zen training temple in 1450. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple comprises of the main temple, the Kyoyochi Pond, the Rock Garden, the tea-room Zoroku and a unique wash-basin of stone 'Tsukubai'. The main building of the temple is called 'Kuri'.
Ryoan-ji was one of my favorite sites in Kyoto. I have already talked about the concept of Shinrin-yoku or Forest Therapy in one of my earlier posts. It is the medicine of simply being in the forest. I could relate to a same kind of therapy while visiting Ryoan-ji. The moment I entered the temple and walked around the tea-room and the gardens, I felt as though transformed by a spiritual energy that refreshed and energized me.
Ryoan-ji was the last temple I visited with my tour guide on a long day of visiting temples and shrines in Kyoto. We first visited the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, the Tenryu-ji Temple and the Okochi Sanso Villa. Then we took a taxi from Arashiyama to Kinkaku-ji, after which we took another taxi to Ryoan-ji.
Here is a brief description of the important areas in the temple:
The Kyoyochi Pond
The pond was made in the late twelfth century. Until recent years many mandarin ducks were seen at the pond. Hence, the temple is also known as the Oshidoridera or the temple of mandarin ducks.
The Rock Garden
The Rock Garden is a rectangular Zen garden with only fifteen rocks and white gravel. The garden was created around 1500 A.D. by a Zen monk. The walls are made of clay boiled in oil. Over the years, the oil has seeped out creating peculiar designs.
The tea-room Zoroku
'Zoroku' means tortoise which is a symbol of the guardian God of the North. It is built in the style of the early 17th century tea-room design.
Tsukubai, a unique wash-basin
'Tsukubai' is a stone wash-basin used in the tea-room with a unique inscription, 'I learnt only to be contented'. This concept is important in the Zen spirit.