History of the temple
Originally a country house of the powerful Tokudaiji Clan, it was acquired in 1450 by a high-ranking official of the Muromachi Shogunate government, Hosokawa Katsumoto, for use as a Zen training temple. Later, It was formally established as Ryoanji Temple by the head priest of nearby Myoshinji temple. It was burnt down during the "Onin" War (1467 to 1478), but rebuilt some 20 years later by Hosokawa`s son. It was again met by fire in 1797 and some of the buildings in the precincts were lost. The present main hall, "Hojo", was then transferred to the present location from another site of the temple compound.
Along with the gardens, paths and a large pond amid the rich greenery, this temple is well-known for its rock garden called "Kare-sansui" consisting of no more than white gravel and 15 rocks, large and small. The rocks and sand are said to represent mountains and water, respectively, making a striking contrast to the concept of traditional Japanese gardens which emphasizes the beautiful combination of trees, rocks and pond.
The rectangular garden, 25 meters from east to west and 10 meters from north to south, is said to have been constructed by a highly respected Zen monk at around 1500. The meaning of this extremely symbolized rock garden is shrouded in mystery, leaving the interpretation to the imagination of visitors.
The roofed earthen wall is also remarkable. It is made of clay boiled in rapeseed oil and its color has been subtly changed by the seeping of oil as time went by.
How to enjoy
No word is necessary. Just get inside the "Hojo" main hall, look around, sit down on the edge of the corridor and have a look at the "miracle garden". You can also enjoy strolling along the paths in the spacious precincts and viewing the large pond as you walk, where a large flock of mandarin ducks were to be seen until quite recently .