I visited Ryoanji Temple yesterday and it was a bit like catching up with an old friend – familiar as I have visited many times before, but also different with the season (and of course because I have inevitably changed)



Of course its impossible to capture such an exquisite dry garden with a camera, but me & the Distagon tried!



After I had been there for maybe half an hour, something quite beautiful & unexpected happened…


The sun came out & due to it being autumn and the trees being bare, their shadows were projected on to the surface of the garden!


When I think of temples in Japan I always remember the feeling of peaceful contemplation, but at temples as famous as Ryoanji it can be a challenge. All of the above photos speak of a profound peaceful quiet but…


Just out of frame in every photo is this crowd of people, some quietly enjoying the temple, others chatting loudly & incessantly taking photos (as was I, of course) but the most annoying thing I experienced at Ryoanji was another gaijin with one of those ridiculous selfy sticks!?! I watched him for a bit & could imagine the photos he was taking ‘heres me at a temple, and heres me at the same temple, and heres me beside a shrub, and hes me, me, me, me…’ – as I said on Twitter a while ago, I am waiting patiently for the first report of a beating with a selfy stick! Time for your close up? Here let me help…

The antidote was to get as far away from him as possible… and the grounds of Ryoanji temple are beautiful! Peace returning, urge to beat imbecile receding…



I’m sure I’ve said it before, but one of the genius aspects of the design of the dry garden at Ryoanji is that it is composed of 15 rocks, but there is no viewpoint (other than maybe overhead) where you can actually see all 15 rocks…

And from wikipedia: In an article published by the science journal Nature, Gert van Tonder and Michael Lyons analyze the rock garden by generating a model of shape analysis (medial axis) in early visual processing. Using this model, they show that the empty space of the garden is implicitly structured, and is aligned with the temple’s architecture. According to the researchers, one critical axis of symmetry passes close to the centre of the main hall, which is the traditionally preferred viewing point. In essence, viewing the placement of the stones from a sightline along this point brings a shape from nature (a dichotomously branched tree with a mean branch length decreasing monotonically from the trunk to the tertiary level) in relief.
The researchers propose that the implicit structure of the garden is designed to appeal to the viewer’s unconscious visual sensitivity to axial-symmetry skeletons of stimulus shapes. In support of their findings, they found that imposing a random perturbation of the locations of individual rock features destroyed the special characteristics.

I can only guess that the composition and use of negative space was a motivating factor in John Cages work Ryoanji:


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