Fodor's Expert Review Ryoan-ji
The arrangement of stones amid the raked sand of this temple's rock garden is appropriately solemn for a National Treasure and UNESCO World Heritage site. The simple composition, a photograph in many schoolchildren's textbooks, can be viewed as a contemplative oasis or a riddle to challenge the mind. From any single vantage point, only 14 of the 15 stones can be seen. In the Buddhist tradition the number 15 signifies completion, and the garden's message is interpreted by many to be that completion is not possible in this world. As mystical as the experience is for some visitors, first-timers may find themselves mystified at the garden's fame. This is a setting that changes with every viewing, reflecting the maturity of the onlooker as years pass. The stroll garden beyond the temple building remains much as it was originally designed in the 11th century.