And all our world is dew…so dear,
So fresh, so fleeting
Ryougen-in is one of the oldest and most important of the Zen Buddhist Temples. It is a subtemple of the Daitoku-ji Buddhist complex.
It was constructed in 1502, and Soboku Tokei, the 72nd priest of Daitoku-ji, played the role of the founder. The temple’s main building, the former residence of Ryogen-in’s head priest, is designed in a typical Zen style and is said to be the oldest building standing in Daitoku-ji. When Tokei guessed a zen riddle correctly, his teacher gave him the zen master’s name of Ryozen-isshi-no-ken, after which this garden is named.
Ryogen-in features different dry landscape gardens on each side of its main building. The largest of them consists of a field of raked white gravel representing the universe. The center rock represents the mythical Chinese Mt. Horai, and the islands of rocks and moss represent a crane and a turtle, symbols of longevity and health commonly found in Japanese gardens.
The Totekiko garden in the east is regarded as the smallest stone garden in Japan. The very small traces of wave patterns remind us of the far-reaching ocean.