|"What's so special about the garden at Ryoanji?"* I asked him, naming the famous rock and sand garden in Kyoto's most brochured and pamphleted Zen temple. "The spaces between the rocks," he replied, with his mouth full of toothpaste.**
The above made me wonder if there are any similarities between the rock gardens of the Far East and the megalithic structures of Western Europe? At first sight there doesn't seem to be - the timeframe between the two, and their use, seem to set them far apart. The oldest Far Eastern rock gardens are probably no more than 1,000 years old and they are, basically, just that - gardens. Megalithic structures are, well, 'structures' of one sort or another. So are there any similarities between the two? Obviously there's a shared interest in rocks - their shape and texture, maybe the place where they came from. The way the rocks are placed is important to both 'traditions', though the reasons for placing them in a certain way seem to have little in common.
We don't really know why megaliths were arranged in a certain way but it seems likely that one reason had something to do with an interest in astronomy; another reason perhaps was to do with ceremony - a place were people gathered at certain times. As far as I know the rock gardens of the Far East have nothing to do with astronomical observations, nor were they places where large numbers of people gathered; they were used for quiet contemplation by individuals, or a place where a small group of individuals might gather for the same reason.
Perhaps the one thing megalithic structures and rock gardens do have in common (today) is a place where people can meditate (in the widest sense of the word) and as such the may not be that far apart in the function they now serve.
** Alan Booth. Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan. ISBN 1568361483.
Posted by Littlestone
8th November 2006ce
Edited 1st June 2010ce