The History of Suiseki
Japanese History
Chinese History
Korean History
Common Classifications   
Japanese Classifications
Chinese Classifications
Korean Classifications
Japanese Terminology
Chinese Terminology
Korean Terminology
Collecting Suiseki
Where To Collect
Tools & Gear
Evaluating Suiseki
Ten Views of a Rock
The Science of Suiseki
Preparing Your Suiseki
Using Acid
Drying Stones
Stone Cutting
Developing A Patina
Caring for Suiseki
Displaying Your Suiseki
The Daiza
The Suiban
The Tokonoma
Other Displays
Overall Design

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Common Western Classifications | Japanese | Chinese | Korean
Among the four languages covered in this section, the most common terminology in use today is Japanese.
This page contains English terminology with Japanese in parenthesis (where applicable).


Scenic Landscape Stones (Sansui keiseki/Sansui keijo-seki) ------------------------------------------------------------

  • Mountain stones (Yamagata-ishi) May resemble a single mountain (distant and near-distant) or several mountains.
    • Distant mountain stones (Toyama-ishi/Enzan-seki) Mountains as viewed from a great distance.
    • Near-view mountain stones (Kinzan-seki) Mountains viewed up close.
    • Single-peak stones (Koho-seki) Mountains with only one peak.
    • Double-peak stones (Koho-seki) Two mountains, or a single mountain with two peaks.
    • Triple-peak stones (Sampo-seki) Mountains with three individual peaks.
    • Mountain range stones (Rempo-seki) Range of mountains rather than a single mountain with one or more separate peaks.
    • Rugged Mountain stone (Seigaku-seki) Mountain stones with rugged features.
    • Snow-covered mountain stone (Sekkei-ishi) Mountain stones with snow-like minerals at peak(s) or sides.
    • Desert Scenic stone. Distant, panoramic view of desert; sometimes with several buttes or mesas.
    • Desert Mountain stone. Pinnacles or spires at peaks.
    • Butte stone. Isolated mountain with flat / eroded top; steep vertical walls. Base usually rocks forming a slant from the desert floor.
    • Mesa stone. Mountain-like formation with flat, broad top and sharp vertical sides.
  • Waterfall stones (Taki-ishi) Resemble mountain with one or more waterfalls. Waterfall suggested by streak of white mineral at top of stone, coming down front.
    • Thread-waterfall stones (Itodaki-ishi) Suggested by a thin line of quartz-like material running down the front of the stone.
    • Sheet-waterfall stones (Nudodaki-ishi) Broader lines of light-colored material coming down the front side of the stone.
    • Dry waterfall stones (Karedaki-ishi) Definite markings that suggest a dried waterfall.
    • Mountain waterfall stones (Yamagata-taki-ishi) Mountain stones with one or more waterfalls appearing on their front surfaces.
    • Mountain-stream stones (Keiryu-seki) Stream running through valley, often white mineral vein where the stream would be. Ideal if stream runs diagonally, vs. from front to back.
  • Plateau stones (Dan-seki/Dan-ishi) Terraced hillside or a series of flat steps rising toward a cliff. Classic stone has at least three steps varying in length, step should be vertical or nearly vertical.
  • Island stones (Shimagata-ishi) Resemble island rising out of water, low in height, suggest coves or inlets, normally displayed in a suiban or doban filled with sand or water to enhance the island image.
  • Slope stones (Doha-seki/Doha-ishi) Suggest the rolling hills of a plain or a slope gently rising toward a hill.

  • Shore stones (Isogata-ishi) Usually shallow and suggest a rocky shoreline.
    • Reef stones (Araiso/Araiso-ishi) Rough stones suggesting a jagged reef or shoal.
    • Sandbar stones (Hirasu/Hirasu-ishi) Smooth stones suggesting a sandbar or quiet beach.
    • Cape stones (Misaki-ishi )
  • Waterpool stones (Mizutamari-ishi) Depressions that suggest mountain pools or ponds. Porous stones that do not allow the pool portion of the stone to be filled with water are not prized. The most highly prized pool stones are those with the pool encircled by one or more well-formed mountains.
  • Pool or Lake stones (Tamari-ishi) Similar to waterpool stones - depressions suggest deeper pools or lakes.
  • Waterpuddle stones (Mitzutame-ishi) Similar to waterpool stones, shallow depressions that hold water.
  • Coastal rock stones (Iwagata-ishi) Suggest a high, wind-swept rocky coastline; tall, rough offshore rock; steep cliff at end of a peninsula. White mineral deposits at base is prized, suggesting waves breaking against cliffs.
  • Cave stones (Dokutsu-ishi) Hollows and cavities resemble caves, suggested by deep dark cavity, end cannot be seen. Most admired when cave slants sharply to left or right.
  • Shelter stones (Yadori-ishi) Suggest concave shallow shelter formed by overhanging cliff, floor of shelter should be visible.
  • Rain-shelter stones (Amayadori-ishi) Similar to shelter stones with suggestion of shelter protecting from rain.
  • Tunnel stones (Domon-ishi) Hole(s) suggest pass-through tunnel / natural arch, e tunnel passing completely through stone.
  • Desert Arch, Natural bridge and Window rock stones Remind viewer of several desert features. Arch continuous over opening in rock below. A Natural bridge stone is similar, but flat on the top of the arch so that it more closely reminds one of a bridge. Window rock stones remind one of a window (usually round or oval) in the surrounding rock.
  • Desert Hoodoo or Ventifact stone Vertical abstract pillars created by wind-blown sand erosion.
  • Canyon or Coulee stones Remind the viewer of deep ravines worn away by running water, similar to canyon stones with deep valleys, steep sides running through the stone.
  • Dry lake or Playa stones Resemble dry, mud-caked flat floor of a desert basin.
  • Arroyo or Dry wash stones Similar to Canyon stones with wider flat floors where water has appeared to wash away evenly after heavy rains.
  • Sand dune stones Appearance of desert sand dunes with many variations.

Object Stones (Keisho-seki)---------------------------------------------------------------------------

  • House-shaped stones (Yagata-ishi) Various types of rustic houses.
    • Thatched-hut stones (Kuzuya-ishi) Important category, overhanging rounded or triangular roof and an eroded, more valued if stone appears to have pillars holding up roof.
    • Pueblo stones. Resemble adobe house of Indians in Arizona and New Mexico.
    • Cliff dwelling stones. Suggest houses carved out of cliffs such as exist in the American southwest.
  • Boat-shaped stones (Funagata-ishi) Resemble different types of boats, including wooden sailing ships, rowboats, and houseboats.
  • Bridge-shaped stones (Hashi-ishi) Resemble a stone or wood bridge.
  • Animal-shaped stones (Dobutsu-seki) Any stone resembling an animal.
  • Bird-shaped stones (Torigata-ishi) Real and mythical birds.
  • Insect-shaped stones (Mushigata-ishi) Especially butterflies, dragonflies, crickets, grasshoppers.
  • Fish-shaped stones (Uogata-ishi) Especially koi and goldfish.
  • Human-shaped stones (Sugata-ishi/Jimbutsu-seki) Especially fishermen, farmers, maidens, Buddha, and Buddhist monks; also stones suggesting parts of the human body.
  • Three objects stones (Sankeishi-seki) These stones suggest three different objects when viewed from different angles.


Colors can enhance the beauty and classification of stones - by their deep, subdued, and excellent color. Appreciated for aesthetics, color and suggestion made by color (ex: dawn, dusk, night, spring, sunsets)

  • Black stones (Kuro-ishi)
  • Jet-black stones (Maguro-ishi)
  • Red stones (Aka-ishi)
  • Blue stones (Ao-ishi)
  • Purple stones (Murasaki-ishi)
  • Golden-yellow stones (Ogon-seki)
  • Yellow-red stones (Kinko-seki)
  • Five-color stones (Goshiki-ishi/Goshiki-seki) Traditionally these stones are a mixture of red, yellow, and green together with either gray, blue, purple, white or black.

Plant-pattern stones (Kigata-ishi)----------------------------------------------------------------------

  • Forest-pattern stones (Mori-ishi)
  • Bonsai-pattern stones (Bonsai-ishi) Resembles a bonsai tree and pot.
  • Flower-pattern stones (Hanagata-ishi) Especially prized throughout the world are:
    • Chrysanthemum-pattern stones (Kikumon-seki/Kikka-seki/Kiku-ishi) Patterns suggest radial design of chrysanthemum flower, a traditional Oriental symbol of immortality.
    • Japanese plum-blossom-pattern stones (Baika-seki)
    • Wild rose-pattern stones (Nobara-ishi)
  • Fruit-pattern stones (Migata-ishi)
  • Leaf-pattern stones (Hagata-ishi) Suggest different types of tree or flower foliage.
  • Grass-pattern stones (Kusagata-ishi) Suggest different types of grasses, including bamboo and pampas grass.
Celestial-pattern stones (Gensho-seki)---------------------------------------------------------------------
  • Moon-pattern stones (Tsukigata-ishi) Iinclusions or embedded minerals which resemble the moon.
  • Sun-pattern stones (Higata-ishi) Markings or embedded minerals suggesting sun - setting, rising, or full.
  • Star-pattern stones (Hoshigata-ishi)
Weather-pattern stones (Tenko-seki)---------------------------------------------------------------------
  • Rain-pattern stones (Amagata-ishi) Inclusions or patterns suggesting driving rain, usually coming down at an angle.
  • Snow-pattern stones (Yukigata-ishi) Resemble patterns of snow falling.
  • Lightning-pattern stones (Raiko-seki) Usually dark with white mineral deposits resembling lightning bolts.
Abstract-pattern stones (Chusho-seki)-------------------------------------------------------------------
  • Tiger-stripe-pattern stones (Tori-ishi) Alternating strips of color, suggesting the stripes of a tiger.
  • Tangled-net-pattern stones (Itomaki-ishi/Itogaki-ishi) Crisscrossing lines often suggest a tangled fishing net.
  • Pit-mark-pattern stones (Sudachi) Pockmarked with pits resembling needle formations or grinding by small particles.
  • Snake-pattern stones (Jagure) Curving and winding patterns suggesting movements of a snake.
  • Embedded stones (Moniri-ishi) Abstract pleasing patterns, embedded.
Desert-pattern stones ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
  • Cracked Mud Flat-pattern stones Resemble floors of dried mud flats where interesting patterns are created by drying clay.
  • Windows-pattern stones
  • Indian blanket-pattern stones Suggest bright patterns on American Indian blankets.
  • Petroglyph-pattern stones Suggest prehistoric drawings and carvings.


Japan Locations

  • Kamogawa river stones Jet black Distant mountain or Slope stones found in the Kamogawa river in Kyoto prefecture.
  • Kurama stones Brown granite Island, Distant mountain, or Object stones found around the Kamogawa river, Kyoto prefecture. Also gray or brown limestone Tangled-net pattern stones.
  • Kibune stones Dark gray or reddish-purple Mountain, Waterfall, or Mountain-stream stones found around the Kamgawa river.
  • Setagawa river stones Black Mountain, Slope or Tiger-stripe pattern stones from around the Setagawa river in Shiga and Kyoto prefectures.
  • Nachiguro stones Jet-black Mountain or Plateau stones from the mountains of Mie prefecture.
  • Kamuikotan stones Black or blue-green Mountain, Slope, or Plateau stones from the rivers and streams of Hokkaido prefecture.
  • Sado red stones Red Mountain or Island stones from the mountains of Niigata prefecture.
  • Ibigawa river stones Black, bluish-black, or gray Coastal, Island, Waterpool, Shelter, or Waterfall stones from the rivers and streams of Gifu prefecture.
  • Sajigawa river stones Black, bluish-black, or gray Coastal, Island, Waterpool, Shelter, or Waterfall stones from the rivers and streams of Tottori prefecture.
  • Furuya stones Black or gray-black Mountain, Waterfall, Mountain-stream, or Coastal stones from the mountains of Wakayama prefecture.
  • Seigaku stones Black or gray-black Mountain, Waterfall, Mountain-stream, or Coastal stones from the mountains of Shizuoka prefecture.
  • Neodani stones Several stone types including Chrysanthemum-pattern stones of Gifu prefecture.
United States Locations
  • Mojave Desert stones California
  • Murphys stones Murphys California
  • Eel River stones Northern California
Italy Locations
  • Ligurian stones, Ligurian Alps, Italy Hard limestone. Similar geological composition to Furuya-ishi. In Italian such stones are referred to as 'Palombini' because of their blue-gray color similar to a pigeon (palombo)

Most information on this page from The Japanese Art of Stone Appreciation by Vincent T. Covello & Yuji Yoshimura

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