Shisen-do   詩仙堂

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A Pastoral Symphony

Kyoto in its hunger for land has long since swallowed the village of Ichijo-ji. And yet, the neighborhood has never lost its village spirit. Dedicated to Zen tradition since its foundation in 1641, the Shisen-do intensifies this bucolic atmosphere.

A stone path heads through the bamboo. Past the rustic exterior gate (or shôyûdo), the polished steps begin a gentle climb to the white sand garden common to many Zen temples. The main building faces its delicate streaks. Modest in size, it houses three rooms. A main hall, a study room and the shogetsurô. This small room that protrudes on ink tiles is dedicated to the contemplation of the moon.

Hedges of azaleas line the main garden. At the end of spring, their flowers flood the park with an intense fuchsia color. The murmur of a waterfall rounds off the silence. A bang sounds out, a natural metronome marks the rhythm. The Sözü is a hollowed bamboo stem, placed under a small waterfall. It fills progressively until it tips under the weight of the water, it empties and and noisily hits a stone placed for this purpose. Empty, the wooden tube moves back up to the running water, which will fill it again. The farmers in the area have used it since time immemorial to scare deer and wild boar and preserve their crops. The sound made by this perpetual movement symbolizes the close relationship between Man and Nature. A discreet hymn that never fails to reach the hearts of visitors.

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