- "The home of the Zonai. They are thought to have worshipped a water dragon, since the area has many rock carvings dedicated to such a being. The stone structure surrounding the Spring of Courage bears the face of a large dragon, and this place must have been a sanctuary for the Zonai as well."
- — Creating A Champion page 413, "Zonai Ruins"
The Zonai Ruins located north east of Pagos Woods on the east side of Floria River which flows between the ruins and Pagos Woods. There is a wooden bridge that connects the road ways that connects the woods road and the ruins' side of the river. The ruins are located south of Harker Lake, Damel Forest, Dracozu Lake, Spring of Courage, and southwest of Dracozu River. The Zonai Ruins are ancient ruins that predate the Great Calamity though like other abandoned places have become overrun with monsters including Bokoblins who have constructed a lookout tower near the road and an Electric Wizzrobe. Blue Lizalfos swim in the waters of Harker Lake near the ruins thus Link must be careful when travelling near the portion of the ruins that boarders the lake. The ruins found in the area are quite small compared to the ruins found at Dracozu Lake and around the Spring of Courage. Similar ruins can be found throughout Faron and are implied to be related to the Ancient Barbarian Tribe that once inhabited Faron.
The Mysterious Zonai Civilization
- "The history of the Zonai people has been lost to time. There are rumors that they were a savage tribe based in Faron, where the most substantial of their ruins are located. However, Zonai ruins or ruins with very similar characteristics can be found in all parts of Hyrule (highlighted in green). In addition to the massive palace in Faron, the Zonai ruins throughout Hyrule seen to have elements connecting them to the ancient shrines. The Zonai themselves are spoken of in hushed whispers as strong magic wielders who vanished suddenly thousands of years ago. The disappearance of the Zonai is one of Hyrule's greatest mysteries."
- — Creating A Champion page 413, "The Mysterious Zonai"
According to the source book The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Creating a Champion, the Zonai Ruins were constructed by the mysterious Zonai civilization which was responsible for building many ancient structures such as the Zonai Ruins, Thyphlo Ruins, and the Lomei Labyrinths in the distant past. Though various ruins of the civilization survive, knowledge of the Zonai civilization has been lost to modern Hyruleans thus the purpose of their ruins are a mystery and apparently predate the Sheikah's construction of the Shrines and Sheikah Towers 10,000 years before Breath of the Wild. The book also reveals various stone towers that can be found in various places Hyrule are known as Zonai Towers as well though their original function and purpose is unknown however they are believed to have possibly been used for magical purposes, but this theory cannot be confirmed. The Zonai Towers originally had a serpent design that resembles a serpent swallowing the tower, though the design was later simplified by the develpors to a none descript Zonai Pillars they ultimately became. The civilization many be related to the Ancient Barbarian Tribe that once lived in the Faron region and is implied to predate the foundation of the Kingdom of Hyrule. The book only mentions the possibility of the Zonai actually being the Ancient Ancient Barbiarian Tribe given the Zonai Ruins are found in Faron, however the theory is apparently an unsubstantiated rumor. Though mysterious the ancient Hyrulean civilization was highly skilled architecturally and apparently very powerful given the size and scale of the Lomei Labyrinths and the apparently construction of the artificial Lomei Labyrinth Island. Additionally the book states that in modern Hyrule the Zonai are spoken of in hushed whispers as strong magic wielder who suddenly vanished thousands of years ago. Additionally its implied that open discussion about the Zonai is social taboo among modern Hyruleans who apparently prefer to discuss it in hushed whispers discussed if at all, thus explaining why Link never hears about the tribe during his travels. Presumably this may be due to superstition regarding the Zonai's disappearance or that the Hyrulean people were somehow involved in the civilization's collapse. Given they are stated to have been powerful magic users that disappeared suddenly their civilization may be related to the Interlopers and their banishment from Hyrule to the Twilight Realm during the Hyrulean Civil War. The Interlopers' Fused Shadow is made of a stone-like material It is also implied that the civilization had some connection to the ancient Sheikah as their Shrines are occasionally found within Zonai structures and the Twili are associated with the Sheikah symbol which may have been inherited from their Interloper ancestors who may have been Zonai. The Zonai of Faron are also believed to have worshiped a water dragon though more likely they worshipped the local Dragon Spirit of Lightning Farosh whom may have been mistaken for a mythical water dragon though they may have worshipped the ancient water dragon Faron whom once lived within the Faron province. Alternatively the water dragon they worshipped represented Dracozu Lake and River which resemble a dragon, and Dragons are often associated with rivers in eastern mythology within the real world. However the book simply provides in-universe based theories and rumors that are based on what little evidence and information remains about the mysterious Zonai within Hyrule. It also suggests a spiral pattern found on Zonai structures throughout Hyrule is a unique symbol of the Zonai civilization. It is unclear if the Zonai were a unique race or simply a tribe of magic users.
Presumably they shared some relationship with the Ancient Barbiarian Tribe that inhabited Faron with the Ancient Barbiarian Tribe either being an early precursor that later evolved into the Zonai civilization which presumably expanded beyond the Faron region into the rest of Hyrule or the Zonai civilization where the enemy of the Ancient Barbiarian Tribe which the Zonai may have competed with. If the Ancient Barbiarian Tribe were the Zonai or precursors of them, they were presumably a humanoid people either Hylian, Human, Sheikah, or mixed race Hyrulean humans, or another related humanoid race that presumably went extinct as the Barbiarian Armor set fits the Hylian Link. According to the source book, the collapse and disappearance of the Zonai civilization is one of Hyrule's greatest archeological mysteries.
- "As we were in the process of creating the cities and people of every region of Hyrule, we thought that if we showed fragments of a civilization that collapsed long ago, it would make the world feel more real. That's why we added Zonai relics throughout Hyrule. The ruins are primarily animal themed, but with the history of the Triforce in mind. The designs are symbolic -using dragons (courage), owls (wisdom), and boars (power). And, yes, their name is a pun. "Zonai" is a take on nazo, a word meaning "mystery" in Japanese."
- — Creating a Champion page 342, Developer's Note of Senior Lead Landscape Artist, Makoto Yonezu
Beyond the Zonai Ruins itself, the Zonai civilization concept is not directly mentioned in-game. The developers originally created the concept of the Zonai and their animal themed ruins as evidence of a mysterious lost civilization, but with the history of the Triforce in mind as each animal design symbolizes a different piece of the Triforce as dragons represent courage (as Zonai dragon ruins surround the Spring of Courage which apparently predates the Zonai as their ruins in Dracozu Lake where constructed around it) , owls represent wisdom (Owls like Kaepora Gaebora are often depicted as being wise creatures that guide and advise Link), and boars represent power (Ganon often takes the form of a demonic boar-like monster). The relics and ruins of the lost Zonai civilization exist to make the world of Hyrule seem more realistic by adding fragments of a civilization that collapsed long ago. However the three springs, Ancient Columns, and Forgotten Temple are ancient Hyrulean cultural relics that are implied to date back to around the times Hylians returned to The Surface following the events of Skyward Sword and not the Zonai civilization which is rumored to have disappeared thousands of years before Breath of the Wild, though the rumor's validity is unconfirmed presumably to make the Zonai as mysterious as possible given that Zonai is a pun on the Japanese word for "mystery".
The Zonai's symbolic representation of Power, Wisdom, and Courage through animal totems representing said virtues indicates the Zonai where aware of the Triforce and may have worshipped the Dragon Spirits that have served the sacred springs since ancient times as the springs apparently predate the Zonai civilization given the differences in architecture. The Zonai likely predate the foundation of the Hyrulean government and may have been descended from early Hylian settlers and/or Sheikah following Demise's defeat and Hylian resettlement of The Surface which presumably started in the ancient Faron province as the Sealed Grounds was located nearby. Additionally the end of Skyward Sword only suggests Hylian resettlement of the Surface not the foundation of Hyrule as a kingdom which may have occurred long after said resettlement period took place and its disappearance may have coincided with the foundation of the Hyrulean government. Presumably the Zonai period took place in between the Hylian resettlement period during which the Forgotten Temple, Ancient Springs, and Ancient Columns were constructed and the foundation of the Hyrulean kingdom upon the Great Plateau. The book however does not clarify when the civilization disappeared only vaguely stating it was said to have disappeared several thousands of years before the modern era depicted in Breath of the Wild.
Senior Lead Landscape Artist for Breath of the Wild, Makoto Yonezu reveals in Creating A Champion, that "Zonai" is actually a pun and is a take on nazo which means "mystery" in japanese. This is a reference to the development concept behind the Zonai as being a mysterious lost civilization that collapsed long ago to add some realism to Hyrule's landscape by adding fragments and relics of a lost civilization from Hyrule's past that predated the Great Calamity. The Zonai Ruins is the only direct in-game reference to this mysterious civilization as all other references to it are simply implied through the the Zonai's animal themed architecture.
The source book Creating a Champion provides most of the background on the development of the Zonai concept and vague insight into its mysterious history from the perspective of modern day Hyruleans through its "Ruins from Times Unknown: Mysteries of Hyrule" section that explains the relation between various mysterious ruined ancient structures from Hyrule's distant past including those related to the Zonai. Some Zonai structures are even named by the source book such as the Zonai Pillars which are mysterious stone pillars that can be found throughout Hyrule which are based on the scrapped Zonai Tower concept.