This sub-temple of Daitoku-ji was built in 1509 by Zen Daisho Kogaku Sotan and contains one of the most well-known gardens in the “karesansui” (dry landscape) style. Its symbolism follows the abstract philosophy of the Zen sect. Tea master Sen no Rikyu received Zen training in this temple and held many tea ceremonies here. Paintings by Soami on the screens of the temple point to his hand in the design and construction of the garden.
There are five small gardens that encircle the main hall, each connected in a depiction of the story of life according to Buddhism. The garden is centered around Mount Horai (Treasure Mountain) where the crane and turtle joined in eternal friendship. The waterfall implies the origin and energy of man, and the white sands (mountain stream) flowing through the gardens represents the stream of life.
The stream of life, flows from the waterfall and over the Seki Dam, representing the span of human life. The white wall may represent the division between this life and the next. Although the small turtle struggles to swim back against the tide of time, he can never go back. The large stone represents the treasure ship of experience.
The stream of life flow into the large ocean of nothingness. The stones of materialism have disappeared, leaving only the white sands of purity. The two mounds of sand represent further steps toward purity as greed and avarice are overcome by the ocean of purity.