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Many things orig­i­nated in China. Bon­sai is a good ex­am­ple. An­other is Zen. The prin­ci­ple of Zen started with the Ma­hayana Chi­nese Bud­dhists in the time of the Tang Dy­nasty (thank you, Wikipedia). It even­tu­ally moved south to Viet­nam, up to Korea and even­tu­ally set­tled in silence in Ja­pan where it was ob­vi­ously per­fected.

The mean­ing of Zen, about which many books have been writ­ten over time, sim­ply means a rig­or­ous self-con­trol, med­i­ta­tion prac­tice and an un­der­stand­ing and in­sight into Bud­dhist na­ture, which is ex­pected to be ap­plied to all else and oth­ers. Hence the spar­tan pre­sen­ta­tion of a Zen gar­den that in its sim­plic­ity is in­spi­ra­tional, a touch of what we would call mod­ernism and an ir­refutable ef­fect on your ideas of or­der.

Zen gar­dens were also of­ten minia­ture land­scape spa­ces where there was lim­ited room to have a gar­den that could con­nect with daily ut­ter­ances, prayers and of­fer­ings (and to show off a bit too).

Zen gar­dens of­ten use just one lonely plant (quite of­ten a conifer), ro­bust enough to with­stand the rigours of any weather, per­fectly shaped and tended to be in ex­cel­lent health for its very long life that of­ten fell to a fol­low­ing gen­er­a­tion to tend.

Stones and rocks are as im­por­tant as the plants, as these rep­re­sent struc­ture and is­lands. Each is care­fully se­lected for the pur­pose and can take a long time to po­si­tion cor­rectly to re­flect its pur­pose as one among a whole dry land­scape. Flat stones rep­re­sent wa­ter, up­right stones trees.

Care­fully tended moss on rocks also demon­strates con­trol and or­der (pos­si­bly with a pair of grass tweez­ers). Like­wise, bam­boo fenc­ing is an es­sen­tial el­e­ment and must be of even qual­ity within each culm and colour matched be­fore it is exquisitely wo­ven for a fence.

Care­fully raked sand and peb­bles form the base of the gar­den. This again, demon­strates or­der and an of­fer of med­i­ta­tion, in­tro­spec­tion and dis­ci­pline in keep­ing raked shapes such as cir­cles in the sand. Usu­ally fol­low­ers use an equally crafted rake for the pur­pose, but you can use a stan­dard steel rake if you have one.

Wa­ter is not a part of a Zen gar­den, nor tech­ni­cally, should a Zen gar­den be lo­cated near wa­ter. The Zen gar­den is a dry land­scape that uses el­e­ments such as rocks, bam­boo, sand stone and usu­ally low-spread­ing plants.

Yours can be a small cor­ner that has some sur­round­ing shel­ter and with just a few of the el­e­ments. In ef­fect, a Zen gar­den would be the low­est of low-main­te­nance gar­dens, but high in spir­i­tual and nano con­trol fea­tures.

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