Japanese rock gardens or "dry landscape" gardens are given a common name as Zen gardens.
Zen Buddhism had an influence in the shaping of Zen gardens which were groomed within the temples of meditation. Extremely abstract and miniature landscapes were also known as "mind-scapes". The gardens became a canvass to this Buddhist preferred way to express cosmic beauty in worldly environments Zen Buddhism priests practiced raking which improved their concentration. Perfect lines were a very challenging task. Ridges were made to define patterns in gravel. Often unstatic, patterns were introduced to encouraged creative and inspire challenge.
Gravel or sand is the base of zen gardens. Symbolizing sea, ocean, rivers or lakes,the act of raking the gravel to form patterns has a symbolic meaning to Zen culture. Recalling waves or rippling water is metaphoric. Zen priests often practice this raking also to increase their concentration. Getting perfect lines is not easy. Rakes are designed as per the patterns of ridges as which are limited to a few stone objects within the gravel area. Mostly the patterns are not static and to developing unique variations in patterns is an inspiring challenge.
Zen gardens are synonymous with plants and trees that change with seasons. Constantly sculpted, the defining structure of a Zen garden lies in its architecture. Buildings, verandas and terraces, paths, tsukiyama (artificial hills), and stone compositions these are the elements which constitute a Zen garden. Regular Pruning is required to maintain the overall appeal.
Stone arrangements were used to represent mountains and natural water elements. Scenes, islands, rivers and waterfalls were depicted through the combination of stone and manicured shrubs like karikomi, hako-zukuri topiary. Moss was used to create "land" covered by forest and foliage. Smooth pebbles were used to represent mountains, islands, boats and people. Zen gardens are best viewed from a seated position.