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Gardening Arts


For the Chinese, a garden is much more than a small enclosure. It serves multiple functions: for residence, gatherings, romance, leisure, studying, contemplation, etc. Gardening is an art rather than a mere civil engineering project. Designing a garden is a refined activity that draws on diverse fields of knowledge such as siting (mainly fengshui principles), botany, architecture, landscape design, and water management. Besides these landscaping efforts, cultivated intellectual pursuits (painting, poetry, calligraphy, sculpture etc) are also an essential component of the art of gardening. 

Aesthetics of the Chinese Garden
 
The aesthetic goals of a typical Chinese garden differ from those in the West. The Chinese garden rarely impresses the visitor with a feeling of tidiness and precision. Instead, the Chinese garden usually features an apparent disorder. Rusticity and spontaneity are incorporated in most gardens.
 
 
Gardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening artsGardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening arts

A Western garden often features a vast expanse of green with incidental buildings, while a typical Chinese garden (as represented by the photo on the right) is a more complex, organic arrangment of buildings, bridges, rocks, water, plants, and various other details.



What is stressed here is that, the garden, though man-made, is to look natural. Harmony between man and nature is a key principle of Chinese philosophy. Chinese scholars developed an affinity for nature, taking it for an inexhaustible source of inspiration. And the Chinese garden is an attempt to recreate nature at home so that the beauty of nature can be enjoyed without taking to the wilds. Artificial buildings are to be harmoniously integrated with the natural scenery, so that while the needs of daily life are met, the landscape and scenery created are made available, too.

An artistically successful Chinese classical garden is expected to be fit for strolling in, sightseeing, amusement and residence, while presenting the viewer with the effect of being pleasing to the ears and eyes.

Layout is the key factor in garden designing. The Chinese gardens are mostly small in size as they are more often than not built in the downtown or suburban areas where space is restricted. However, ingenious arrangement of buildings, walls, corridors, plants, ponds, etc, creates the visual effect that the garden feels like a fairly big labyrinthine compound. Various techniques such as winding and covering, hiding and revealing, closing and opening, separating and borrowing are employed to arrange the positions of various structures and extend the visual space. A rich diversity of views are to be made available to the visitor as he moves to different positions in the garden.
 
 
Principal Elements in a Chinese Garden
 
Water
 
Gardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening artsGardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening arts

Water scene is central to a Chinese garden. Almost all Chinese gardens have a small pond, or at least a little stream running through. Water is typically broken into small separate areas, with gold fishes, adding fluidity and interest to the garden.

 
 
Rock Formations
 
Gardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening artsGardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening arts

Artificial hills made of rocks are common in Chinese gardens. They symbolize the dwellings of Taoist immortals. A porous rock with many holes penetrating all the way through and with a strange, contorted form would be a most sought-after item. Rocks form the Taihu Lake are often chosen for their ideal characters.

 
Buildings
 
Gardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening artsGardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening arts

Buildings serve both residential and aesthetic functions. Pavilions and halls are designed to merge as naturally as possible into the “natural” scenery of the garden, achieving a harmony with their setting. The arrangement of buildings divides the garden space into smaller sections, thus creating more scenic views.

Gardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening artsGardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening arts

Covered walkways, often going along the walls or purposely winding, are extensively used to connect different buildings in a Chinese garden.

Moon-gate in a Chinese garden, putting the view outside the gate into a moon-shaped frame.

 
 
 
Plants
 
Gardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening artsGardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening arts

Bamboo planted to create a dappled lighting effect on an otherwise plain-looking white wall.

Lotus pond in Humble Adminstrator's Garden, Suzhou.

Gardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening arts

Seasonal plantings amid rockery, seen through the lattice windows. In the gardens of the Chinese literati, plum blossoms, chrysanthemums, bamboos, pines, orchids, etc. are most favoured for their gentlemanly characters. For example, bamboo is chosen for its resilience and perseverance under harsh conditions.

 
 
 
 
Other Details
 
Gardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening artsGardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening arts

Decorative openings of diverse shapes in whitewashed walls. Different spaces are visually linked by views glimpsed through doorways, lattice windows and decorative openings in walls.

Gardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening artsGardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening arts

Lattice window, framing the scenic view of the courtyard

Brick carving featuring a pair of pheonixes, a lucky omen in Chinese folk culture.

Gardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening artsGardening Arts, Chinese Classical Gardens, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Aesthetics of Chinese gardening arts

Plaques, couplets, paintings, and calligraphic works are found in almost every hall or pavilion in a Chinese garden. They reflect the garden designer or owner's personal character and interest, as well as accomplishment cultivated pursuits.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

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