The essence of Suiseki is more than just representational. It is also spiritual. Quoting from a pamphlet of the San Francisco Suiseki Kai, "The contemplation of a stone as a symbol of nature relaxes the mind from the pressures of complex daily life and allows a person to retain his sense of values. The importance of life in its simplest form is reflected through the beauty, strength, and character of the stone."
There are three main category groupings in Suiseki:
Scenic Landscape Stones are considered to be the most popular. They may evoke impressions of near and distant mountains, islands, waterfalls, caves, river-formed terraces, lakes, and other examples of natural topography.
Object Stones constitute another primary grouping. Included are stones resembling man-made objects such as boats, bridges, and old Japanese thatched huts. Also prized are animal-shaped stones, bird stones, and stones that resemble fish and human figures.
Pattern Stones make up the third category. They are valued for their unique surface patterns resulting from variations in color, unusual texture, and contrasting mineral inclusions. The best known of this group is the beautiful Japanese chrysanthemum stones. Others include tiger-striped stones, celestial (sun/moon/star) patterned stones, abstract pattern stones, and figure-embedded stones.