TEMPLES AND ZEN GARDENS OF THE ANCIENT HEIAN

peace.gardens.heianOver these days the tragedies of the Middle East and Syria take over more and more. My friend Issa Touma, brave curator in Aleppo, needs words of peace and to be supported. So this feature article is dedicated to him and his people, wishing to write about Syria’s temples of Peace and Hope.

Among the most fascinating heritage of Asia there are temples and ancient Heian gardens (capital of peace and tranquility), present-day Kyoto, which remained the capital imperiale from 794 until 1869.

It was built on the model of Chinese Chang-an, in a Valley surrounded by hills, with the two rivers Kamu, and Katsura who crossed from North to South and the Imperial Palace to the North. Two temples, the Toji and Saiji were built to protect the southern part, while on Mount Hiei Northeast direction considered vulnerable from Chinese fengshui , Enryakuji monastery was erected.

As the center of Japanese culture for over a thousand years, Kyoto illustrated the development of wooden architecture (especially that of religious structures), and the art of Japanese Gardens, which influenced in modern times all over the West. The city was in fact the heart of Japanese cultural traditions, continuing to shape them for centuries, thanks to the fusion of Shinto and Buddhist elements in its temples and palaces. For these reasons many temples and gardens inside are today Unesco World Heritage site.

Its parks, known as zen gardens, are expressing a true art that along with disciplines such as ink painting, tea ceremony and flower arrangement, still represent the characteristics of Japanese civilization in the world.

In the XIth century was written a book, the Sakuteiki (notes on composition of gardens), indicating clearly what to avoid and what rules you follow in the arrangement of the stones and in the choice of cardinal points to avoid attracting the ire of malevolent spirits. The gardens are set in small spaces within zen temples, built in perfect harmony with the surrounding buildings. They in fact can be covered by a veranda or from the Interior of the rooms, sitting with sliding panels open. Unique places of beauty faces to meditation and contemplation. The different types can vary depending on the environment.

There are airy, velvety gardens of musk which the Saihoji, and others only composed of stones and rocks which the Ryoanji 龍安寺(literally the Temple of the Dragon sleeper). The latter is a Buddhist temple located in Northwest Kyoto and belongs to the Rinzai school-shū (臨済宗), one of the three existing branches of Zen Buddhism today. Designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 1994, represents the dry garden par excellence ( karensansui)style, Muromachi taste. The idea of these gardens was to condense the universe in a confined space that could be surrounded by fences, walls or vegetation. The elements were arranged harmoniously in order to be observed lengthily.

A gravel bottom perfectly raked, waves, giving the effect of water, while above were positioned rocks of different shapes, more or less hidden in the ground or to each other, to create the feeling of water on islands or Visual games.

There are however flower trails, trees and beds of MOSS Greens, which offer the opportunity to make beautiful walks for peace and rapprochement ala nature. In the Centre of the garden there is also a large lake called Kyoyochi (鏡容池, literally in the shape of a mirror), covering almost a third of all the temple complex, which houses two islets.

Other garden a symbol of Kyoto is Nanzen-ji, built in 1291 as the residence of Emperor Kameyama, damaged in the 15th century during the Onin war. Here you will find the beautiful zen garden of Tiger, particularly known for the spectacular variations of its leaves in the fall (Momiji). Ben 12 temples are hosted in the gardens, but visitors come here especially to admire the nature giapponeseprimaverile, celebrated according to the rite of the Holyakura (contemplation of flowering cherry).

 

Two other Kyoto’s historic symbol complexes are the Golden Pavilion, or Kinkaku-ji Silver Pavilion Gingaku-ji.

The Kinkaku-ji Temple or Golden Pavilion, also known as Rokuon-ji Temple鹿苑寺(Temple of deer park) was dedicated to Kannon, Goddess of mercy. It is a hybrid style building, covered with gold leaf. Typical features of the Zen style, with an emphasis on decorative elements such as frames of cusp-shaped boxes, shelves very close together inside and outside the building, and delicate strips on the doors and walls above the Windows. It is a strong visual impact especially at dusk when the Golden reflections of the Pavilion are reflected in the waters of the Lake on which stands, contrasting with the surrounding Green Garden.

The Ginkaku-jiSilver Pavilion, literally, as a private residence of the Shogun Yoshimasa, which he built in 1489, in honor of his grandfather. The name derives from the non-silver cover of the building, which did not happen ever. Its completely Sandy garden draws the ocean in the distance, and contrasts with the green of the trees. Inside the Pavilion hosts events of Japanese culture in its classical expressions as the NohTheatre, the tea ceremony or the art of ink painting. A place for meditation at all times of the year.

Zen gardens and temples of the ancient Heian represent still today unique evidence architectural charm exercised by the ancient Asian capitals, that lasts for centuries despite increasing boost global economic and technological. A heritage to be discovered in the rhythm of your breath, to the search for peace.

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About Odile Milton

I travel through words whenever possible. Odile Milton is my signature on the web as I wanted an alter ego to indicate only my writings and works, not my personal life. Odile like the dancer in black swan, and Milton from the novel An old-fashioned girl. View all posts by Odile Milton

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