Japanese Rock Garden

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The first garden to begin the transition to the new style is considered by many experts to be Saihō-ji, "The Temple of the Perfumes of the West", popularly known as Koke-dera, the Moss Garden, in the western part of Kyoto. The Buddhist monk and zen master Musō Kokushi transformed a Buddhist temple into a zen monastery in 1334, and built the gardens. The lower garden of Saihō-ji is in the traditional Heian period style; a pond with several rock compositions representing islands. The upper garden is a dry rock garden which features three rock "islands". The first, called Kameshima, the island of the turtle, resembles a turtle swimming in a "lake" of moss. The second, Zazen-seki, is a flat "meditation rock," which is believed to radiate calm and silence; and the third is the kare-taki, a dry "waterfall" composed of a stairway of flat granite rocks. The moss which now surrounds the rocks and represents water, was not part of the original garden plan; it grew several centuries later when the garden was left untended, but now is the most famous feature of the garden.

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