Many if not most Japanese gardens have been influenced by Buddhism or Zen Buddhism. Hence this category should only include exceptional examples of garden art that can be directly associated with Zen Buddhism and its influence on the Japanese garden, and that highlight the ties to Zen Buddhism.
Sites aimed at gardeners, and those that explore a wider range of Japanese or Japanese-inspired gardening styles, should be submitted to Home: Gardening: Gardens: Japanese.
In Japan gardens, unlike the gardens and parks of the West, the hand of the gardener is concealed. Japanese garden architecture was influenced by Chinese and Japanese painting and has the same status as a work of art of symbolic content created in accordance with strict aesthetic principles as an object for contemplation by the spectator. Its connection with religion was from its earliest days equally close. The earliest Japanese landscaped gardens were based on Taoist ideas and Chinese models. Later under the influence of Buddhism, they symbolized Amida's Western Paradise.
Later, Zen Buddhism exerted a powerful influence on Japanese life during the Kamakura period (12th-14th c) which extended to garden architecture replacing courtly elegance by simplicity. Whereas the garden had served mainly as a place for walking and playing, it was now seen as an expression of a system of symbolism, not to be walked in but contemplated from a veranda. The formal principles of garden layout were derived mainly from the monochrome landscape ink-painting of the Sung period in China. The objective was to create the appearance of limitless space within a small, mostly enclosed, area.
In the landscape gardens we find a mingling of reality and abstract form, but in the kare sansui or "dry rock garden" pure abstraction is achieved. These are dry gardens without water but with stone and sand used to represent water falls, rivers, lakes and sea. Stone and plants are used interchangeably to represent landscape scenes and elements.