Chinese garden

Chinese garden
Chinese garden
Garden in NPM.JPG
Zhishan Garden in the the garden styles of the Song and Ming dynasties[1]
Traditional Chinese 中國園林
Simplified Chinese 中国园林
Chinese classical garden
Traditional Chinese 中國古典園林
Simplified Chinese 中国古典园林

The Chinese garden, also known as a Chinese classical garden, is a style of garden developed under the influence of traditional Chinese culture. Historically, through the gardens, people sought out ways to emulate the harmonious and idyllic places of the natural world that long have inspired the Chinese aesthetics and arts of painting and poetry. It provided a shelter for one to connect with nature and an idealistic way of life.

Chinese gardens used plants as symbols. Bamboo was used in every traditional Chinese garden. This is because bamboo represents a strong but resilient character. Often pine is used to represent longevity, persistence, tenacity and dignity. The lotus is used to symbolize purity. The plum blossom is one of the most important aspects of a Chinese garden, as it represents renewal and strength of will. Flowering peaches are grown for spring color, and sweet olive as well. The chrysanthemum is used to symbolize splendor, luster and "the courage to make sacrifices for a natural life". Peonies symbolize wealth and banana trees are used simply for the sound they make in the breeze.

Contents

History

A lake scenery with water lillies in Liyuan Garden, Wuxi
Penjing Garden at the pagoda Yunyan Ta (Cloud Rock Pagoda; Suzhou, China)
The Nanyuan Garden in Hsinchu, Taiwan

The Chinese garden and its associated garden culture are expressions of Chinese vernacular landscape architecture aesthetics. Several cultural factors within Chinese civilization, starting from the Neolithic, merged during the Jin Dynasty (265–420) to form Classical Chinese Gardens as a stylistically distinct creation within the stream of Chinese vernacular landscape architecture. These factors include Neolithic beliefs and worships, geomancy, Confucianism, and Taoism.

An early reference of a garden in Chinese literature is in the Shi Jing (Classic of Poetry).[2] It mentions a garden, possibly containing solely useful trees, such as willows, hardwoods, and mulberries, planted inside a walled compound.[2] The I Ching (Classic of Changes) describes a garden, connecting gardens with wild rather than cultivated nature.[3] However, a poem from perhaps the 4th century BCE, compiled in the Chu Ci (Songs of Chu), has one of the earliest descriptions of a true pleasure garden.[3] Historical records from the Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 BCE) mention some of the earliest gardens constructed as vast parks for pleasure and hunting.[4]

Gardens were initially built with medicinal plants as the ancient Chinese people turned to agriculture.[5] The cultivation of plants started with the purpose of food and medicine, but gradually developed into the cultivation of plants for the aestethic appreciation during the development of gardening.[6] Chinese vernacular landscape architecture, that is the relationship between man and nature, began in the Neolithic Yellow River Valley. The agriculture of the Yangshao culture had created a vast regional garden out of nature. Neolithic China was more productive than any of its contemporary civilizations. Thus, nature came to be regarded as a partner friend and equal to man.[7]

The art of garden design began in the Shang Dynasty (ca. 1600 BCE – 1046 BCE) as large imperial parks.[8] Beginning with the first historic records of the Shang Dynasty, two types of landscape design were recorded, the royal garden of the Shang kings in the capital Yin and the agriculture-based garden of the common people. The royal garden was designed as a raised platform surrounded by lush vegetation in the palace where feasts were held. Successive dynasties expanded this idea into imperial hunting parks with scenic compositions of rocks and plants. During the Warring States a nature park called Tiger Hill (Chinese: 虎丘; pinyin: Hŭqiū) was built in the state of Wu. It was a notable exception to the aesthetic of the large scale royal park as an expression of worldly power. It is the earliest example of landscape architecture to commune with nature in China.

The Shanglin Garden (上林園), constructed during the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BCE), was one of the most famous royal palace gardens of Ancient China.[9] The Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, launched an extensive civil engineering project to construct the Shanglin Garden on the south bank of the Wei River in the capital Xianyang.[9]

During the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), Emperor Wu of Han also built a large royal garden. This garden combined the features of botanical and zoological gardens, as well as the traditional hunting grounds. Another innovation was Kunming Lake with a recreation of the three fairy islands in the center, a motif that would become a common feature of later designs. The memory of this park would continue to inspire garden design design for centuries. The Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220) was controlled by Confucian scholars who disapproved of the excesses of their ancestors and promoted an aesthetic of elegant simplicity to match an ethic of moderation. Thus the idea of small is beautiful became the new measure of a garden's success. It was at this time temple grounds, and siheyuan courtyards began a conversion to designed gardens. By the end of the Han Dynasty, Chinese gardens could be classified by scale and program as either royal gardens, enclosed temple gardens, or enclosed private (scholar) gardens. The private or scholar's garden belonging to the scholar class was the beginning of the "classical garden" in China. The Chinese classical garden is considered a work of art elevated beyond the other two, to the degree that the term Chinese garden often refers to the private Chinese classical gardens exclusively.

Chinese classical gardens were built by and for the scholar class (紳士), many of whom were also civil servants. They, along with their gardens, first appeared during the Eastern Han Dynasty in parallel with the rise of Confucian ideology. When the Han Dynasty ended a strict class division virtually ended advancement in the civil service and caused the scholar class to retreat into a more contemplative life in their gardens.

During the Sui (581-618) and Tang (618–907) dynasties, the literati class often took part in the construction of gardens and over time aspects of paintings and poems began to influence garden design increasingly.[10] Especially plant cultivation had developed to an advanced level, with many plant species being grown by means of plant introduction, domestication, transplantation, and grafting.[10] The aesthetic properties of plants were highlighted, while numerous books on plant classification and cultivation were published.[10] The economic prosperity of the Tang Dynasty led to the increasing construction of gardens across all of China.[11]

Besides the role that flowers, trees, and other plants played to the aesthetics of a Chinese garden, the stone landscape was a point of contention.[12] The connoisseurship for the aesthetic beauty that rocks added to the garden landscape began to be established during the Song Dynasty (960–1279).[12] The Genyue Garden was constructed in which the aspect of the stone landscape was gaining prominence in the Chinese garden design.[13] Emperor Huizong of Song collected rare flowers and precious rocks from thoughout China and had them transported to the capital to adorn his royal gardens.[13] Especially the Taihu rocks were a point of interest to Emperor Huizong.[12] In the 11th century, a Japanese visitor saw and was particulary taken back by the stone landscape of Bao'en Temple garden.[12] Finally, during the Ming Dynasty gardens had reached peak of design and many treatsies on garden design appeared.

Cultural aspects

The rustic gardens and idyllic scenery of West Lake, Hangzhou

Over the span of several millenia, the Chinese people developed a distinct garden aesthetic. The gardens were intended to evoke the idyllic feeling of being in the larger natural world, so that one could capture the sensations of wandering through the landscape.[4] Garden designers have sought out ways to emulate nature for the appreciation of true harmony between man and nature.[14] Eventually, the garden design became considered an artform in itself.[15] The classical gardens are strongly associated with poetry and painting. As many designers were well educated in poetry and painting, this brought forth a style in which gardens were designed with an atmosphere of pictorial and poetic feeling in the pursuit of natural beauty.[16] It became required to integrate the garden architecture with the landscape in one unity.[16] The garden aesthetics have been influenced by the Daoist philosophy where enlightment could be reached by contemplation of the unity of creation, in which order and harmony are inherent to the natural world.[17][18] Therefore, the garden is considered as the ideal place of contemplation when the work of man and nature came together as one.[17] It became a way to feel close to nature and the ancient way of life.[19]

An example of such influence can be found in the West Lake of Hangzhou, which has long been a source of inspiration for Chinese poets, painters, and garden designers alike.[20] It was described as having influenced garden design in East Asia throughout the centuries and is said to reflect an idealized fusion between humans and nature.[21]

The intimate private gardens are associated with the scholar-gentleman and viewed as a reflection of the cultivation and aesthetic taste of the owner.[4] After the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), due to Daoist ideals of disengagement from wordly concerns, gardens became more and more constructed as retreats where one could escape the pressures of a politically engaged civic life.[22] The design of a garden drew on diverse fields, such as botany, siting (fengshui), landscape design, architecture, and water management.[23] The designer also had to be familiar with the poetic and painted landscapes of the past.[23]

The Chinese garden serve multiple functions. It can be a place for solitude and contemplation, social gatherings, leisure, festivities, romance, cultivated pursuits (like painting, poetry, calligraphy, and music), study, and every day activities.[17][24] The social and cultural importance of the garden is attested in Chinese literature, such as in the classical novel Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin which unfolds almost exclusively in a garden.[24]

Design

Pavilion and red arch bridge reminiscent to the architectural garden style of the Tang Dynasty in Nan Lian Garden[25]

Naturalistic planting designs have long dominated various aspects of Chinese garden styles.[26] It emphasizes naturalistic beauty and avoids straight lines or geometric shapes, showing a tendency for creating poetic and picturesque scenes.[27] The principle of the design was that the landscape was arranged in such a way so that one could pleasantly wander through the garden from one view to another, each view capturing the pleasure given to the appropiate situation.[28] The goal was to incorporate the rusticity and spontaneity existing in nature with the garden.[29] The kind of garden that became prevalent was generally one in which the landscape was balanced with complementary features.[28] The harmonious arrangement of various elements are important to consider in the design,[4] where contrasting elements were placed in juxtaposition so that the aspects of yin and yang could come to expression,[4] in which seemingly opposites are interdependent in the natural world.[30]

The essential elements in a garden are a wall surrounding a hall, a pool, and trees and mountains. Later these were expanded to seventeen essential elements: 1) proximity to the home; 2) small; 3) walled; 4) small individual sections; 5) asymmetrical; 6) various types of spatial connections; 7) architecture; 8) rocks; 9) water; 10) trees; 11) plants; 12) sculpture; 13) borrowed scenery; 14) chimes; 15) incense burners; 16) inscriptions; 17) use of feng shui for choosing site.[31][not specific enough to verify] The variety of sensory features enhance a garden's appeal. Windows frame garden views. Trees and flowers provide aroma. Even the intricate designs of pavement and gravel offer tactile enjoyment. Suzhou, in eastern China is widely known for its numerous classical private scholar gardens.

The aesthetics of the garden are judged by its conception, approach, layout, scenes, and borrowing. The measure of how well the garden reflects the "artistic conception" (yijing), like a painting or poem, is considered an important aspect, where the designer thinks about the creative methods, which were often borrowed from those arts, before the actual process of constructing the garden.[32] The approach describes how the garden may express the idea of nature beyond the theme. The layout is the use of multiple layers of scenery to create a sense of the infinite in the finite. The scene is how well paired two opposite scene are and how they create harmony. Finally the Chinese[33] principle of "borrowed scenery" (借景 jiejing) will be considered in which the garden gets incorporated with the surrounding landscape as a whole, so one could gaze beyond the distance at the mountains and streams as an extension of the garden.[19]

The basic form of the garden is created by ponds and mounds. China is mostly covered in mountains, thus they have occupied a special place in the collective imagination since the Neolithic era. The mountain in the Chinese imagination is magical place. An axis mundi where ancient wise men live on a diet of minerals and rare high altitude herbs. These men called immortals have access to knowledge and skills unknown to ordinary men. A mountain of the right type is a dragon of Qi and all its associated benefits. In myth certain mountains are themselves sacred. The elaborate grottoes of rock serve the same function, a small piece of the mountain through which to stroll, full of caves where immortals live. The pits dug to heap these mounds are used as ponds and streams. With the right properties such a pond may be the home of a dragon of Qi. The pavilions are placed in this landscape of mounds and ponds at auspicious points. Together the mound, pond, and pavilion create the primary form of the garden. A secondary layer is created by plants. In literature this secondary role is well attested. Finally, individual Taihu rock is added for accent, like sculpture in a European garden.

The Chinese classical gardens has four major elements to take into consideration, which are water, rocks, plants, and architecture.[17] The garden is composed in a such way to reflect the garden's sequential beauty, such as the passage of time, contrast between day and night, and the transition of seasons, which form an important part of the experience of the garden.[17][4]

Elements and features

Architecture

Yue Fei Temple in Hangzhou

Architecture is the one of the primary elements of design. The garden structures generally didn't dominate the landscape, but were designed to be in harmony with its surroundings.[28] These structures were sometimes intended to exude a rustic feel of a fisherman's hut or hermit's retreat.[28] In Chinese landscape paintings one could often see, for example, a small human figure along a hermit's hut lost in the vastness of the surrounding mountains and mist; the pavilions were similar in that way to invite, signify, and celebrate the habitation of the world.[34] The location of where the pavilions were built is a consideration. Pavilions were built to fully express the beauty of the garden scene, such as where the dawn could best be watched, where the moonlight shone on the water, where autumn foliage was seen to advantage, or where the wind whistled through the bamboo stalks.[28] Bridges are often built from rough timber or stone-slab raised pathways.[28] Chinese gardens can also traditionally have brightly painted or lacquered bridges, which may evoke a lighthearted feeling to the garden.[35] There are various types of bridges and some well-known types that originated from China are the red lacquered arched bridges,[36] moon bridges,[37] and many others. Dynamic scenes may be seen from a path, but is the location of the building, however, that determines the circulation of paths. The path itself can become architectonic by the addition of roof and screen walls. These screen walls often have moon gates (moon-shaped doorways) and small windows in the shapes of vases and apples.

Rock

The first application of rocks, recorded in Chinese history, was found in Tu Yuan (literally Rabbit Garden), built during the Western Han Dynasty period (206 BCE – 9 CE).[38] Rocks were gathered from afar and became a decorative feature in the Chinese garden.[28] Connoisseurship developed in connection with their color, shape, and placement.[28] Decorative Chinese scholar's rocks, are used both for structural and sculptural purposes. The sculptural Taihu rock is especially prized because it represents wisdom and immortality, and is only procurable from Tai Lake, just west of Suzhou. Such rocks, combined with streams and pools, form the basis of a garden's plan. The Chinese word for landscape, shan shui, literally means "mountains and waters" while a common phrase for making a garden means "digging ponds and piling mountains".

Water

Chinese garden with man-made water features and piled rocks

Chinese gardens usually feature a central pond and several offshooting streams. The softness of water offsets the solidity of the rocks, while also acting to reflect the constantly changing sky above. Goldfishes are often raised in Chinese gardens.[39] Various forms of bridges are constructed to traverse over the various ponds or streams, and lakeside pavilions are often constructed along the water edge.[39]

Plants

The classic curved bridge is used in many Asian gardens.

Many garden plants have essential symbolism. Pine trees represent wisdom and bamboo represents strength and upright morality. Plum trees are also extremely valuable to the Chinese for their beautiful pink and white blooms during winter. Chrysanthemums were also extremely well loved because of their autumn bloom (when most plants wither and die) and symbolize the perfect Confusician scholar. Peonies symbolize wealth and power, and the lotus symbolizes purity (and is also a revered Buddhist plant). Climbing roses, camellias, ginkgos, magnolias, jasmine, willows, sweet osmanthus, and maples were also planted. The plum blossom is one of the "Four Junzi Flowers" (四君子) in China (the others being orchid, chrysanthemum, and bamboo) and symbolized nobleness. The Chinese see the blossoms as more of a symbol for winter rather than a harbinger of spring. It is precisely for this reason that the blossoms are so beloved, because they bloom most vibrantly amidst the winter snow while all other flowers have long since succumbed to the cold and died. Thus, they are seen as an example of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity, and thus has also been used as a metaphor to symbolize revolutionary struggle. Because they blossom in winter, the plum, the pine, and the bamboo together have been called the "Three Friends of Winter" (歲寒三友). Trimming and root pruning, if done, are in a style inspired by the observed natural growth and never in geometric forms.[40] Trees are shaped in the way of the grotesque and balanced that may or may not have experienced the hardship of a harsh enviroment.[40]

Other

The pavement of a Chinese Scholar's Garden might include intricate natural patterns or simply dirt depending on the wealth and mission of the owner. Decoration consists of calligraphy carved into rocks or walls, and lattice windows. Some windows have the shape of different objects such as apples, pears, circles, pentagons etc.

Influence

Asia

The Japanese were aware of the Chinese garden landscaping as early as the 6th century[11] and the influence of Chinese gardens had reached through Korea to Japan by 600 CE.[17] In 607, Emperor Yang of Sui constructed his landscape parks near the Chinese capital Luoyang.[41] Japanese ambassadors, such as Ono no Imoko (envoy of the Japanese Empress Suiko to the Chinese Sui court), were astonished with these royal parks, but before that they had not actually seen the the landscape art which they learned of through contacts with Korea.[41] Ono no Imoko's reports about what he saw were important, because the parks had profound influence on the development of Japanese landscape design.[41] During the Nara period (710-794), Japanese Shinto worshippers encountered the gardens of the capital in China and these gardens were carefully recreated in Japan.[42]

Europe

Jesuit priests arrived in China around the mid-16th century and wrote back detailed descriptions about the gardens they saw there. They were educated in various fields and introduced certain garden features from Europe, such as fountain works and mazes, though it didn't caught on in the Chinese garden aesthetics[43][28] over the more tranquil, yet man-made, features known in China, such as flowing streams and waterfall cascades. Elements of Chinese garden landscaping was introduced to England in the 17th century, where it spread to France, and then to rest of Europe.[11] In 1685, the English diplomat and writer Sir William Temple, familiar with the writings of travellers to China, wrote the essay Upon the garden of Epicurus which contrasted European theories of symmetrical gardens with asymmetrical compositions from China and praised the latter's visual influence.[44][45] Louis le Comte, a French missionary and scientist, travelled to China in 1685. He described how the Chinese gardens had grottos, artificial hills and rocks piled to imitate nature, and did not arrange their gardens geometrically.[46] In 1743, the French Jesuit missionary Jean Denis Attiret also described in great detail what he saw:

"One comes out of a valley, not by a straight wide alley as in Europe, but by zigzags, by roundabout paths, each one ornamented with small pavilions and grottos, and when you exit one valley you find yourself in another, different from the first in the form of the landscape or the style of the buildings. All the mountains and hills are covered with flowering trees, which are very common here. It is a true terrestrial paradise. The cannals are not at all like ours- bordered with cut stone- they are rustic, with pieces of rock, some leaning forward, some backwards, placed with such art you would think they were natural. Sometimes a canal is wide, sometimes narrow. Here they twist, there they curve, as if they were really created by the hills and rocks. The edges are planted with flowers in rock gardens, which seem to have been created by nature. Each season has its own flowers. Aside from the canals, everywhere there are paths paved with small stones, which lead from one valley to the other. These paths also twist and turn, sometimes coming close to the canals, sometimes far away."[47]

Since his residence in China, his impressions of Chinese gardens was as follows:

"Everything is truly great and beautiful, both as to the design and the execution: and [the gardens] struck me the more, because I had never seen any thing that bore any manner of resemblance to them, in any part of the world that I had been before."[48]

On the first view of the coast of China the stranger concludes that the inhabitants are a nation of gardeners.

– James Main, 1827[49]

Due to the interest and fondness of the different style, it resulted in chinoiserie elements in the European gardens.[44][45] The Chinese garden landscaping was introduced to England in the 17th century, where it spread to France and the rest of Europe.[11] The style became popularized by people like Sir William Chambers (1723–1796), who lived in China from 1745 to 1747 and wrote the book The Drawings, buildings, furniture, habits, machines and untensils of the Chinese, published in 1757. In the writings he described where he lived as a guest, and the aesthetic theories behind its composition. This firsthand account influenced an emerging garden style in Europe which imitated the Chinese stylistic conventions such as concealment, asymmetry, and naturalism. Later, in 1772, Chambers published his renowned book entitled Dissertation on Oriental Gardening,[50] a rather fanciful elaboration[28] of contemporary ideas about the naturalistic style of gardening in China.[51] Ultimatly, during the 18th century, the Chinese influence became prevalent enough that it led to French and other European observers coining the term Jardin Anglo-Chinois (Anglo-Chinese garden) to describe the new style.[45][52] In 1928, the Prussian scholar and gardener Marie-Luise Gothein wrote:

"The pleasure taken in the Chinese parts of the park was so universal that it is impossible to mention any one of the large French or German gardens of the period that had not at least a Chinese pavilion."[19]

The classical gardens of Suzhou

Suzhou is located in the south-eastern part of Jiangsu Province. When the Grand Canal linking many older canals in China was constructed during the Sui dynasty, Suzhou prospered, becoming a center of the silk trade. During the Song dynasty, nearby Hangzhou became the imperial capital and Suzhou grew as well, a convenient retreat for scholars, officials and merchants.

Gardening in Suzhou reached its height during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Suzhou became the center for a garden supply industry. It is for the reason the gardens of Suzhou are considered classical standards of design. There were over 280 private gardens then in Suzhou and landscaping became an art with established masters. The mild climate, along with 230 frost-free days and around 43 inches (1,100 mm) of rain annually the area is perfect for gardening endeavors. Sixty-nine gardens in and around Suzhou are preserved as important national cultural heritage sites. In 1997, UNESCO added four of the largest private gardens of Suzhou to the World Heritage List, and in 2000 UNESCO added the historic section of the city and five more gardens in Suzhou as extensions to the World Heritage Site.[53]

Famous Suzhou garden designers include Zhang Liang, Ji Cheng, Ge Yuliang, and Chen Congzhou.

English Chinese
Humble Administrator's Garden 拙政园
Lingering Garden 留园
Master of the Nets Garden 网师园 清 十全街
Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty 环秀山庄 清 景德路
Great Wave Pavilion 沧浪亭 宋 人民路三元坊
Lion Grove Garden 狮子林 元 园林路
Garden of Cultivation 艺圃 明 文衙弄
Couple's Retreat Garden 耦园
Retreat & Reflection Garden 退思园 同里

See also

References

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  32. ^ Chen, Gang (2011). Landscape architecture: Planting design illustrated (3rd ed.). ArchiteG, Inc.. p. 148. ISBN 9780984374199. http://books.google.com/books?id=FIhad8oJ3nwC. 
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Further reading

  • Sirén, Osvald (1949). Gardens of China. 
  • Sirén, Osvald (1950). China and Gardens of Europe of the Eighteenth Century. 
  • Tong, Jun. Gazetteer of Jingnan Gardens (Jingnan Yuanlin Zhi). 

External links


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