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Chinese Garden Landscape


chinese garden landscape 1

Chinese Garden Landscape

Essay According to historical records of the Zhou dynasty, the earliest gardens in China were vast parks built by the aristocracy for pleasure and hunting. Han-dynasty texts mention a greater interest in the ownership of rare plants and animals, as well as an association between fantastic rocks and the mythical mountain paradises of immortals. Elaborate gardens continued to be built by members of the upper classes throughout China’s history. A smaller, more intimate type of garden, represented by the Museum’s Chinese Garden Court, also developed in China. Gardens of this kind are associated with scholar-gentlemen, or literati, and have been celebrated in Chinese literature since the fourth century A.D. Paintings, poems, and historical books described famous gardens of the literati, which were often considered a reflection of their owners’ cultivation and aesthetic taste. The number of private gardens, especially in the region around Suzhou in southern China, grew steadily after the twelfth century. The temperate climate and the great agricultural and commercial wealth of the region encouraged members of the upper class to lavish their resources on the cultivation of gardens. During the period of the Mongol conquest in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, many literati in this region found official employment either disagreeable or hard to obtain and therefore devoted themselves to self-cultivation and the arts. The garden became the focus of an alternative lifestyle that celebrated quiet contemplation and literary pursuits, often in the company of like-minded friends. Traditional Chinese gardens were meant to evoke a feeling of being in the larger natural world, so that the occupant could capture the sensations of wandering through the landscape. Compositions of garden rocks were viewed as mountain ranges and towering peaks; miniature trees and bushes suggested ancient trees and forests; and small ponds or springs represented mighty rivers and oceans. In other words, the garden presented the larger world of nature in microcosm. Masses of colorful cultivated blossoms, flowerbeds of regular geometric shape, and singular vistas (such as the formal gardens at Versailles) were all avoided, in keeping with the goal of re-creating actual landscapes. Instead, the many aspects of a Chinese garden are revealed one at a time. A garden’s scenery is constantly altered by the shifting effects of light and the seasons, which form an important part of one’s experience of a garden and help engage all the senses, not just sight. One of the most important considerations in garden design is the harmonious arrangement of elements expressing different aspects of yin and yang. The juxtaposition and blending of opposites can be seen in the placement of irregularly shaped rocks next to smooth, rectangular clay tiles; soft moss growing on rough rocks; flowing water contained by a craggy grotto; and a dark forecourt that precedes entry into a sun-drenched central courtyard. Rocks have long been admired in China as an essential feature in gardens. By the early Song dynasty, small ornamental rocks were also collected as accoutrements of the scholar’s study, and the portrayal of individual rocks, often joined with an old tree or bamboo, became a favorite and enduring pictorial genre. By the fourteenth century, depictions of gardens almost always included representations of a fantastic rock or “artificial mountain” and scholars’ rocks often supplanted actual scenery as sources of inspiration for images of landscapes. Sculptural garden rocks, with distinctive shapes, textures, and colors, have always been treasured as focal points of Chinese gardens. By the Tang dynasty, three principal aesthetic criteria had been identified for judging both garden stones and the smaller “scholars’ rocks” displayed in literati studios: leanness (shou), perforations (tou), and surface texture (zhou). These criteria led to a preference for stones that were vertically oriented, often with a top-heavy shape; riddled with cavities and holes; and richly textured with furrows, dimples, or striations. Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art October 2004
chinese garden landscape 1

Chinese Garden Landscape

According to historical records of the Zhou dynasty, the earliest gardens in China were vast parks built by the aristocracy for pleasure and hunting. Han-dynasty texts mention a greater interest in the ownership of rare plants and animals, as well as an association between fantastic rocks and the mythical mountain paradises of immortals. Elaborate gardens continued to be built by members of the upper classes throughout China’s history. A smaller, more intimate type of garden, represented by the Museum’s Chinese Garden Court, also developed in China. Gardens of this kind are associated with scholar-gentlemen, or literati, and have been celebrated in Chinese literature since the fourth century A.D. Paintings, poems, and historical books described famous gardens of the literati, which were often considered a reflection of their owners’ cultivation and aesthetic taste. The number of private gardens, especially in the region around Suzhou in southern China, grew steadily after the twelfth century. The temperate climate and the great agricultural and commercial wealth of the region encouraged members of the upper class to lavish their resources on the cultivation of gardens. During the period of the Mongol conquest in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, many literati in this region found official employment either disagreeable or hard to obtain and therefore devoted themselves to self-cultivation and the arts. The garden became the focus of an alternative lifestyle that celebrated quiet contemplation and literary pursuits, often in the company of like-minded friends. Traditional Chinese gardens were meant to evoke a feeling of being in the larger natural world, so that the occupant could capture the sensations of wandering through the landscape. Compositions of garden rocks were viewed as mountain ranges and towering peaks; miniature trees and bushes suggested ancient trees and forests; and small ponds or springs represented mighty rivers and oceans. In other words, the garden presented the larger world of nature in microcosm. Masses of colorful cultivated blossoms, flowerbeds of regular geometric shape, and singular vistas (such as the formal gardens at Versailles) were all avoided, in keeping with the goal of re-creating actual landscapes. Instead, the many aspects of a Chinese garden are revealed one at a time. A garden’s scenery is constantly altered by the shifting effects of light and the seasons, which form an important part of one’s experience of a garden and help engage all the senses, not just sight. One of the most important considerations in garden design is the harmonious arrangement of elements expressing different aspects of yin and yang. The juxtaposition and blending of opposites can be seen in the placement of irregularly shaped rocks next to smooth, rectangular clay tiles; soft moss growing on rough rocks; flowing water contained by a craggy grotto; and a dark forecourt that precedes entry into a sun-drenched central courtyard. Rocks have long been admired in China as an essential feature in gardens. By the early Song dynasty, small ornamental rocks were also collected as accoutrements of the scholar’s study, and the portrayal of individual rocks, often joined with an old tree or bamboo, became a favorite and enduring pictorial genre. By the fourteenth century, depictions of gardens almost always included representations of a fantastic rock or “artificial mountain” and scholars’ rocks often supplanted actual scenery as sources of inspiration for images of landscapes. Sculptural garden rocks, with distinctive shapes, textures, and colors, have always been treasured as focal points of Chinese gardens. By the Tang dynasty, three principal aesthetic criteria had been identified for judging both garden stones and the smaller “scholars’ rocks” displayed in literati studios: leanness (shou), perforations (tou), and surface texture (zhou). These criteria led to a preference for stones that were vertically oriented, often with a top-heavy shape; riddled with cavities and holes; and richly textured with furrows, dimples, or striations. Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art October 2004
chinese garden landscape 2

Chinese Garden Landscape

Chambers was a fierce critic of Capability Brown, the leading designer of the English landscape garden, which Chambers considered boring. Chambers believed that gardens should be full of surprises. In 1761 he built a Chinese pagoda, house and garden in Kew Gardens, London, along with a mosque, a temple of the sun, a ruined arch, and Palladian bridge. Thanks to Chambers Chinese structures began to appear in other English gardens, then in France and elsewhere on the continent. Carmontelle added a Chinese pavilion to his garden at Parc Monceau in Paris , and the Duc de Choiseul built a pagoda on his estate at Chanteloup between 1775 and 1778. The Russian Empress Catherine the Great built her own pagoda in the garden of her palace of Tsarskoye Selo, near Saint Petersburg, between 1778 and 1786. Many continental critics disliked the term English Garden, so they began to use the term ‘Anglo-Chinois” to describe the style. By the end of the nineteenth century parks all over Europe had picturesque Chinese pagodas, pavilions or bridges, but there were few gardens that expressed the more subtle and profound aesthetics of the real Chinese garden.
chinese garden landscape 3

Chinese Garden Landscape

Later Chinese garden designs included little palaces, pavilions and rooms on little islands in a pond. Gorgeous plants and flowers, used in moderation, beautify tranquil Chinese garden designs with amazing rockeries and meaningful garden stones. When considering an oriental garden design style, think of elements and features that reflect or seek to imitate natural surroundings. A Chinese rock garden design is an excellent way to interpret the natural landscapes and create a peaceful small world right in your own backyard. Chinese garden design Chinese garden design with a koi fish pond

Chinese Garden Landscape

Chinese Garden Landscape
Chinese Garden Landscape
Chinese Garden Landscape

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