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Zen Garden

The main rockeries have a long history and are full of Zen spirit, which are the only remains of the China early cave-cleuch-style rockery groups.

1.With a Long History

One version said that the Lion Grove Garden was built in 1342 during the Yuan Dynasty by Zen Buddhist monks, in memory of their teacher Weize. The garden is covered by bamboos, under which are rocks. These rocks look like lions. That’s how the name of the garden came. The name also refers to the Lion Peak of Mount Tianmu where the original teacher Abbot Zhongfeng learned and expounded the texts of Boddhism.

It is also said by a famous painter of Yuan Dynasty, Runde Zhu. In the preface of his book, Pictures of the Lion Grove Garden, he said that he met Weize in the Lion Grove Garden after back to Suzhou from Beijing in about 1324 to 1328. It said that the Lion Peak stood tall among the prosperous trees and tall rocks.

The two versions about when the Lion Grove Garden was built have some differences, but no contradictions. Rome is not built up within one day. In the same way, the Lion Grove Garden with so many rockeries can not be built up within one day either. Before that it was some rich people’s land according to the documents. When the Hui

Emperor of Song Dynasty was building rockeries in Capital Bianliang, he sent officers to pick taihu rocks for him. The North Song Dynasty fell when the rocks were still in deliver. Rocks that hadn’t been delivered were left in a ruined garden.

The Lion Grove Garden was defined as a monastery in 1342. Before that the rockeries were already built.

2.Full of Zen Spirit

The Lion Grove Garden is different from the normal landscape garden that literati and poets admire. The rockery groups are full of Zen spirit and express the founder’s religious ideas. Derun Zhu, a famous painter of Yuan Dynasty, noted a conversation between himself and Weize, from which we can see the idea of the garden founder. The Lion Peak stood tall among the prosperous trees and tall rocks. As said by Bodhidharma that the dragon is the strongest in the water and the elephant is strongest on the land. So in the forest, the lion should be the strongest. Zhu asked, the lion can frighten the beasts with its braveness and fierceness, right? Weize said no. The rock looks like brave and fierce lions. But it’s not to frighten the others. Referring braveness and fierceness, it’s Bodhisattva Manjursri’s nature. Zhu asked again that some people expound the texts of Boddhism, is it to keep the obstructions away? Weize said no again. The sound of expounding the texts of Boddhism will disappear in the end. How about say nothing but understand everything in your heart? Zhu began to understand Weize. In this complex world, without frightening look or expounding the texts of Boddhism, you can’t get others to understand or believe you. However, you name the garden by the lion is to express that you understand the world but without saying anything. The real friend can understand even if you say no words. To be real can keep the bad away; to be calm can keep the desire away. If you can keep real and calm, any frightening look or sound can’t make you afraid. That’s what I want you learn from the lions. Look around the lion-shape rocks. If you are thinking about the lions, then what you see are lions; if you are thinking about the rocks, then what you see are just rocks. It’s all up to you. Weize nodded and said yes. With the lion-shape rockeries, Weize express the idea that Zen spirit can keep you real and keep calm in this complex world. No sounds and no shapes. Lions keep silent but understand everything. People can get lessons from the lions. That’s why Weize built the Lion Grove Garden.