The Suiseki Tradition
Ornamental Stones - Viewing Stones - Suiseki
The ornamental stones you see on this site are called viewing stones, small stones that may resemble a much larger landscape or natural form or pattern. It is important to understand that although all suiseki are viewing stones, not all viewing stones are suiseki.
Suiseki are small stones shaped by nature, unaltered by man, which suggest familiar landscapes such as mountains, islands, waterfalls, shorelines or seascapes. Further, to be classified as suiseki, the material must be dense, dark in color and possess a subtle patina. These stones are displayed in hand carved wooden bases, called daiza, or in trays of sand, called suiban, where the sand represents the earth's surface, either land or water. To complete the display, the stone and its surroundings are shown on a low table or slab of wood,called jiita.
Other types of viewing stones
There are other classifications of stones that are just as cherished by collectors, rare stones, Chin seki, and beautiful stones, Bi seki, for example, that have natural shapes, animals, and/or patterns, flowers, etc. These types of stones are always shown in daiza.
The first known writings of viewing stones are by the poet Lo-tien from China during the years 772- 846. Later, Japanese paintings and block prints of the 12th through the 15th centuries depict many bonsai and suiseki.
Over the following years, the Japanese formalized the art of viewing stones by naming the various rock forms and creating precise ways to display them. Stones of great beauty were cherished and placed in a viewing alcove, tokonoma to be contemplated. It was thought that the viewing of suiseki helped stimulate the person, purify one's soul and uplift one's spirit.