Tuesday, 9 April 2013

What can you hear in a Chinese garden? Wind chimes

Appreciate the sound experience of a Chinese garden as it was available in Spring 2012 in Shenyuan, Shaoxing. 绍兴沈园

Friday, 5 April 2013

History of Chinese gardens - Part 4 Ming and Qing dynasties


I translated this brief history of gardens in China from the reference book:
Peng,Y. 彭一刚 (2008). Zhongguo gudian yuanlin fenxi 中国古典园林分析 (Analysis of the classical Chinese garden). 25th Ed. Beijing: China Architecture & Building press.


Yuyinshanfang 余荫山房, suburbs of Guangzhou. Part of the Four Famous Gardens of Lingnan. Copyright © 2013 J.Richard. All rights reserved.

At the beginning of the Ming dynasty1, the capital was located in Nanjing. Then the capital shifted to Beijing, on the base of the previous Dadu. The Yuan dynasty's Taijichi (太液池) underwent transformations, the garden being enlarged to the south, and three lakes added : the northern lake Beihai (北海), the middle lake Zhonghai (中海) and southern lake Nanhai (南海). All these are then part of the wide imperial park named Xiyuan (西苑).



Around the middle of the Ming dynasty, agriculture and crafts made outstanding progress, in parallel it also marked one of the greatest development in garden-making. At this time, the important garden centres were the surroundings of Beijing, Nanjing and Suzhou cities. Officials and nobles built their private gardens in the capital, Beijing. The gardens were usually scattered around water ponds, or dispersed around the south-east area near the lake and the river. The suburbs of Beijing also featured numerous gardens such as the Shaoyuan2 (勺园), the Liyuan (李园) also called Qinghuayuan (清华园) and the Liangyuan (梁园), etc.



In Nanjing, the secondary capital, there were also many private gardens. But it was especially in the Suzhou area that the private gardens were flourishing, because its thriving economy attracted many bureaucrats. A number of these gardens still exist to this day, among which we can cite the Zhuozhengyuan (拙政园), the Liuyuan (留园), the Yipu (艺圃), etc. Beside Suzhou itself, the whole surrounding region was crowded with gardens. This popularity also reached the city of Yangzhou, where scholars and painters gathered inside the growing amount of parks. The abundance and richness of garden-making during the Ming dynasty found its expression in the person of Ji Cheng, an educated painter who created gardens, and wrote the first treaty about garden making: the Yuanye3 (园冶).



After the fall of the Ming, during the Qing dynasty4 the popularity of garden-making was maintained, particularly under the reigns of the emperors Kangxi (康熙, ruled from 1661 to 1722) and Qianlong (乾隆, ruled from 1735 to 1796). The number of imperial gardens in Beijing during the Qing dynasty exceeded ten. Inside the city, the Ming dynasty's Xiyuan was repaired, enlarged and perfected, thanks to the construction of many buildings. To the north-west of the city were successively built the Jingyiyuan5 (静宜园), the Yuanmingyuan (圆明园), the Jichunyuan6 (畅春园) and Qingyiyuan7 (清漪园) etc., with a total of five imperial gardens. Moreover, in Chengde an imperial garden was also built for the summer use: the Mountain resort (避暑山庄). The gardens of Qing dynasty were superior to those of the Ming Dynasty in terms of number and size, marking the most flourishing period for garden-making in Chinese history.



Under the reign of the emperor Qianlong, Chinese economy was flourishing and the country was politically strong. The emperor undertook six inspections tours to Jiangnan. Qianlong had a strong interest for garden-making, in addition of being a very cultured person. During his inspection tours, he selected his favourite sceneries inside Jiangnan private gardens and then used any possible means to imitate these concepts in his own imperial gardens in the capital. Therefore, we can say that the Imperial gardens absorbed part of the Jiangnan private gardens concepts. As a consequence, one characteristic aspect of the Qing gardening style is to accumulate imitations of famous garden's sceneries, and then group these together in a new garden. For example, in the imperial Mountain Resort in Chengde, the emperor Kangxi ordered the construction of thirty-six sceneries, and Qianlong also created his own thirty-six sceneries. The Yuanmingyuan featured Qianlong's famous forty sceneries. Every single one of these had its own meaning and symbolic, probably inherited from the eighteen sceneries of the West Lake in Hangzhou. Inside the sceneries, the buildings themselves could be imitations of Jiangnan gardens' constructions. For example, many parts of the Mountain resort of Chengde are imitations of Jiangnan region's buildings. The Jinshan ting (金山亭)copied the Jinshan Temple in Zhenjiang (镇江). The Yanyu lou (烟雨楼) was inspired by the Yanyu lou in Jiaxing (嘉兴). Following the same pattern, the Shizilin (狮子林) in the Wenyuan8 (文园) imitated the Shizilin in Suzhou. Finally the Wenjin ge9 (文津阁) was an imitation of the Tianyi ge10 (天一阁) in Zhejiang (浙江).



Apart from Beijing, during the Ming and Qing dynasties gardens were principally built in Yangzhou, Suzhou, Wuxing, Hangzhou, etc. as well as in the delta of the Pearl River11. In Beijing were mostly the gardens of the emperor's family and those possessed by nobles and high officials. Other officials, scholars and wealthy merchants mainly built their gardens in the Jiangnan and Lingnan12 (岭南) regions. While visiting Yangzhou, it is said that Qianlong saw that both banks of the Narrow West Lake (瘦西湖) were covered with gardens built by officials. Yangzhou gardens' where mainly characterised by exquisite artificial mountains. Thus the city became famous for those, and a proverb was even created [to underline this special feature]: ''Yangzhou is known for its magnificent gardens, the gardens are known for their gorgeous mountains and rocks'' (扬州以园亭胜,园亭以叠石胜). In Suzhou as well, the number of gardens was impressive: according to a statistic from the liberation, in the city alone remained at least one hundred of these. But the gardens still existing today have been modified many times and can only be considered to date from the late Qing Dynasty.



In the region of the Pearl River's delta, which is called Lingnan, the weather is moist and the soil fertile. Hence, garden-making had to be adapted to this natural condition: this makes for excellent garden-making environment. This region was added to the Chinese territory during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms. At this period Lingnan was already an area with flourishing garden-making activity. As Guangzhou's port was opened to the foreigners' trade, by the Ming and Qing dynasty, the Guangdong province developed, and so did the garden-making trend. As a result of the foreigners influence, the Lingnan garden style acquired very specific characteristics.

1. Ming dynasty (1368-1644).
2. A garden created by Mi Fangzhong 米方种during the Ming dynasty, nowadays part of the campus of Beijing University.
3. The Yuanye (Craft of gardens) was written in 1634 by Ji Cheng 计成.
4. Qing dynasty (1644-1911).
5. The Jingyiyuan was built on a previous garden site, in 1745 under the reign of Qianlong. It is located in the Fragrant Hills to the north-west of Beijing.
6. The Jichunyuan is located to the south of the Yuanmingyuan. It was started in 1684 under the reign of Kangxi, and was later on modified and added to the wide imperial park created by Qianlong, including the Yuanmingyuan.
7. The construction of the Qingyiyuan started in 1750 under the reign of Qianlong. It was situated to the west of the Yuanmingyuan.
8. The Wenyuan is a part of the imperial Mountain resort in Chengde, built in 1747 on the model of the Suzhou garden.
9. Constructed in 1774, also part of the imperial garden in Chengde.
10. A famous Ming dynasty built library in Ningbo, with adjacent gardens.
11. Around the city of Guangzhou.
12. Lingnan 岭南 literally means ''To the south of the mountains'': represents mainly the actual Guangdong province.

History of Chinese gardens - Part 3 From the Five Dynasties to the Yuan dynasty


I translated this brief history of gardens in China from the reference book:
Peng,Y. 彭一刚 (2008). Zhongguo gudian yuanlin fenxi 中国古典园林分析 (Analysis of the classical Chinese garden). 25th Ed. Beijing: China Architecture & Building press.


 Yipu 艺圃 , Garden of Art/Cultivation, Suzhou in 2009. Copyright © 2013 J.Richard. All rights reserved.

During the chaotic period of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms1, even though finances were in a poor state, the southern cities still developed into centres of administration, craft industry and agriculture. Among them was the city of Suzhou, located in Wuyue (吴越), where garden-making was flourishing. Besides, some gardens were also built in Guangzhou, much farther in the south.



Even though the Song dynasty put an end to the independent regimes of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms, the rural economy was still in an exhausted condition. In addition the northern part of China was constantly threatened by invasions, leading to a daily weakening of the country's power. At the same time, the ruling class lived in luxurious style, and in consequence garden-making was still flourishing.



If Song China was not really a prosperous country, it did not prevent poetry and painting to develop and reach new heights. The imperial art academy was established, which allowed a gathering of scholar painters from all over China, triggering a great development in Chinese painting. Outside the academy great artists emerged, such as Wen Tong2, Mi Fu3, Su Shi4, etc. who led painting schools, advocating principles rather opposed to the academic way: they cherished the Xieyi brush style, and led Chinese painting on an original new direction. This can be illustrated by Guo Xi's5 The Lofty Message of Forest and Streams (林泉高致) and Li Cheng's6 Landscape painting principles (山水诀), treaties which offered a deep reflection on the conception of landscape painting, such as the essential principles of composition. This new turn of landscape painting aesthetics also had an influence on the development of garden-making.



During the Northern Song dynasty7, gardens were concentrated in the two capitals, the eastern Bianliang (Kaifeng) and the western Luoyang. As Bianliang was the main capital, the Imperial gardens were gathered here. Among them was the famous Jinmingchong (金明池), built in the eastern part of the city, featuring a regular layout with clear central axis, and pond with in the centre a hall called Shuidian (水殿). South to the Jinmingchong was located another garden called Qionglinyuan (琼林苑), which also featured ponds, this time surrounded by vegetation, flowers, and hills. The mountains in particular were arranged in good taste, undulating and changing, adopting the outline of a ship8. According to local records, this garden required a great amount of men to be constructed, and some of the necessary materials such as plants and strangely [shaped] rocks were sent from the Jiangnan region. The capital Bianliang counted in total nine Imperial gardens, and the private gardens built by nobles and officials were much more numerous.



In the southern capital Luoyang, the number of gardens did not match those of Bianliang, but they were still of a signifiant amount. According to the Record of Luoyang famous gardens9 (洛阳名园记) there was as many as 24 gardens, the majority of those were constructed on the remains of previous Tang dynasty parks. However, the garden's focus shifted from the artificial mountains to the ponds' layout and vegetation environment, causing previous Shanchi (山池) [mountainous pond] to become Yuanchi (园池) [flower pond] or Yuanpu (园圃) [garden, with the meaning of growing plants]. Henceforth Luoyang had been nicknamed ''City of flowers''.



During the Southern Song dynasty10, the political centre was located in the south, so nobles and officials congregated in cities such as Lin'An (临安) ancient name for the actual Hangzhou (杭州), Wuxing (吴兴) and Pingjiang (平江) which is the actual Suzhou (苏州). Ling'An was the southern capital, as such the gardens built around the West Lake (西湖) were too numerous to be counted. Among these, there were at least ten imperial gardens, the rest being temple gardens and private gardens. Wuxing was the place were most of government officials liked to retire or take a break from official life and as a result, the city was thriving with garden construction. According to the Wuxing gardens records11 (吴兴园林记), there was at least 34 gardens in Wuxing. As for Pingjiang, even if was a bit far from the capital Ling'An, it was a flourishing commercial and military centre featuring naturally favourable conditions for garden-making. As a result in the city a number of gardens were constructed.



After the Mongol destroyed the Song and established the Yuan dynasty12, the imperial power was in the hands of foreigners, which sparkled intense conflicts between social classes and ethnic minorities. According to the Yuan classification, the population was categorised in four types, among which Han ethnic people were considered the lowest, especially if they lived in the south. Because of the stagnation of economy, in this period there were only a few garden constructions. In the north, the Jindaninggong (金大宁宫) was transformed, adding the two gardens of Taijichi (太液池) and Wansuishan (万岁山), as part of the imperial park. In the capital Dadu (大都) near the actual Beijing, there were only a few private gardens.


1. Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period五代十国 (907-959).
2. Wen Tong 文同 (1018-1079), painter and poet of the Song dynasty.
3. Mi Fu 米芾 (1051-1107), famous calligrapher and painter of the Northern Song dynasty.
4. Sushi 苏轼 (1037-1101), also called Su Dongpo 苏东坡, one of the most famous Chinese poets.
5. Guo Xi 郭熙 (c.1020-c.1090), landscape painter which treaty detailing brushstrokes became well-known.
6. Li Cheng 李成 (919-967), landscape painter which style was characterised by its use of diluted ink.
7. Northern Song dynasty 北宋 (960-1127).
8. Here I am not very sure of the translation, since the word 外轮wai4lun2 ''foreign ship'' sounds a bit strange in the context.
9. A record written around 1105 by Li Gefei 李格非, listing private gardens in Luoyang.
10. Southern Song dynasty 南宋 (1127-1279).
11. A record written by Zhou Mi 周密 (1232-1298), a scholar from Jinan, listing the gardens in Wuxing.
12. Yuan dynasty (1271-1368).

History of Chinese gardens - Part 2 Sui and Tang dynasties

I translated this brief history of gardens in China from the reference book:
Peng,Y. 彭一刚 (2008). Zhongguo gudian yuanlin fenxi 中国古典园林分析 (Analysis of the classical Chinese garden). 25th Ed. Beijing: China Architecture & Building press.



 Hangzhou West Lake. Copyright ©2013 J.Richard. All rights reserved.
After three hundred years of chaos, the Sui1 and Tang2 dynasties marked the return to a peaceful and united Chinese territory. The economy was improving, allowing a resurgence of palatial garden building. The emperor Sui Wendi3 built in Daxing a garden called Daxingyuan4, then the emperor Sui Yangdi5 in turn built a garden called Xiyuan6 in the eastern part of Luoyang. The latter was an artificial, wide scaled man-made imperial park. The land surface was undulated, and the northern part included a group of sixteen buildings. Furthermore the water of the Luo river was diverted so as to flow the garden's main pond, which featured the three fabled islands following the model of Han Wudi's garden. Besides there were five smaller ponds, and the whole hydraulic system was linked. The Xiyuan was not only of wide scale, but its composition had also reached a new complexity: even if it imitate the Han dynasty gardens, it also had originality, which was best illustrated in the unprecedented concept of '' garden inside a garden''.



The end of the Sui dynasty was marked by four peasant insurrections, Li Yuan7 raised troops and [overthrown the Sui and established a new dynasty], the Tang8. Not only did he quickly restored the feudal order, but he also managed to increase Chinese productivity, announcing an unprecedented period of prosperity in China. Parallel to the economic development, the literature and art also reached a new peak. By this time landscape painting already obtained a unique status inside the general painting art. Landscape painting separated into two schools: the first was led by the painter Li Sixun9, characterised by the Gongbi10 brush style; the second was led by Wang Wei11, and characterised by the Xieyi12 brush style. Besides, the natural landscape acquired a great importance in the poetry and travel writing. This explains why the theme of natural beauty received an even greater popularity than before.



Under the Tang dynasty, the capital Chang'An was the world's biggest city. At the north of the city was located the palace named Taijigong (太极宫), or Xinei (西内). Behind its main building named Taiji dian (太极殿) lived the imperial wives and concubines. In the northern part, near the wall was situated the imperial garden, inside which were hills, ponds, platforms and halls, etc. Because of the relatively small scale of the Taijigong, at the beginning of the Tang dynasty, another palace named Daminggong (大明宫), or Dongnei (东内) was built in the northern part of the city, near the previous one. In the northern corner of the Daminggong was built a garden, featuring a wide pond named Taiyechi (太液池). This pond was occupied by a single small mountain called Penglai. To the south of the pond laid the following buildings: the Zhujing dian (珠镜殿), the Yuyi dian (郁仪殿), and the Shicui dian (拾翠殿), etc.



Moreover, a palace named Xingqinggong (兴庆宫) was built in the eastern part of the capital. Beside the administrative buildings, another part was intended for the entertaining of the emperor: the main feature was a big oval pond called Longchi (龙池) surrounded by pavilions, vegetation and flowers.



In addition to the previously named palaces, in the south-east corner of the city was built the Furongyuan (芙蓉园). On the west the garden overlooked the river, and featured wide areas of water circled by pavilions, platforms and all sorts of buildings, creating a beautiful landscape. To allow the emperor go sight-seeing, a connexion was built so that it communicated with the two palaces Dongnei and Xinei.



Furthermore, a hunting park was built outside the walls, at the north-west of the city and the south of the river. The enclosure had a scope of 120 li and it featured kiosks, platforms, pavilions and ponds.



Under the Tang dynasty, many private gardens were built. The nobles and officials constructed many gardens in the Western Capital, among which the majority was located in the south-east part of the city, in the surroundings of the river. Besides, in the eastern and southern part of the city there were also many private gardens. The eastern part of the secondary capital Luoyang was also a favourite spot for aristocrats and officials to build gardens: it was for example the location chosen by Bai Juyi13 for his residential garden. The Prime minister Li Deyu14 had his private garden constructed in the southern part of the city: it was called Pingquanzhuang (平泉庄).



Outside Chang'An or Luoyang, many scholars chose to built gardens on the mount Lushan ( 庐山), following the example of Bai Juyi who built there his famous Caotang (草堂). As for the poet Wang Wei, he chose to create the Wangchuan garden (辋川别业) on his Lantian (兰田) estate. These gardens did not contain much man-made parts, as the mountain's natural beauty provided the scenery. As a result they gave a much natural feeling than those other gardens built in and around the cities. 

 
1. Sui dynasty (589-618).
2. Tang dynasty (618-907).
3. Founder and first emperor of the Sui dynasty. Sui Wendi 隋文帝 (541-604).
4. Daxingyuan 大兴苑, built around the actual Xi'An.
5. Sui Yangdi 隋炀帝 of the Sui dynasty (ruled 604-617)
6. Xiyuan 西苑, see the glossary.
7. Li Yuan, 李渊 (566-635), founder and first emperor of the Tang dynasty. His emperor name is Gaozu.
8. Tang dynasty, Tang (618-907).
9. Li Sixun 李思训(651-716), reknown painter from the Tang dynasty.
10. Gongbi 工笔: very precise, realistic, meticulous brush style which origins started around the Han dynasty.
11. Wang Wei王维(c.701-761), another famous painter from the Tang dynasty.
12. Xieyi 写意: spontaneous brush style, opposed to the Gongbi, developed under Tang Southern school of painting.
13. Bai Juyi白居易(772-846): a famous poet who lived under the Tang dynasty.
14. Li Deyu李德裕 (787-849): an official of the Tang dynasty.

History of Chinese gardens - Part 1 From the origins to the Sui dynasty

I translated this brief history of gardens in China from the reference book:
Peng,Y. 彭一刚 (2008). Zhongguo gudian yuanlin fenxi 中国古典园林分析 (Analysis of the classical Chinese garden). 25th Ed. Beijing: China Architecture & Building press.

 Picture: Jichangyuan 寄畅园, Wuxi. Copyright © 2012 J.Richard. All rights reserved.

History of the evolution of garden-making in China.



The history of Chinese garden-making has been very long and progressive. As early as in the Shijing (Classic of Poetry) a report can be found about the time of the Duke of Zhou1 stating that there was construction of palaces and parks. After the Qin [dynasty] unified China, a hunting park was created to the south of the Wei river; it had a wide scale of several li2. Inside were built temporary palaces for the emperor. Besides, a large amount of wild animals and birds were bred in the park. During the Western Han dynasty3, these palaces and park were expanded. Moreover to the south of the capital Chang'An, an important area was converted into Han Wudi4's imperial park. At the time it was mainly a hunting park with natural mountains and springs, but inside this park was also added a man-made5 garden. Even if this time marked the supremacy of Confucianism, the emperor also believed in immortals. Thus he ordered a pond to be dug inside the park. Inside the pond, small islets were created, representing the three mythical islands of Penglai, Fangzhang and Yingzhou that are supposed to be inhabited by immortals. Han Wudi's imperial park not only became a model for the following dynasties imperial gardens, but also introduced the idea of a symbolic representation inside a garden, as opposed to only imitating nature as did the previous attempts. During the Eastern Han dynasty6, the capital was moved to Luoyang. There the imperial gardens didn't reach the big scale of the Eastern Han's, but they were more exquisite.



During the two Han dynasties, private gardens started to appear both in the capitals of Chang'an and Luoyang. These were built by high-ranked officials of the court, usually ministers or generals.



During the Wei7, Jin8, North and South9 dynasties, the country was divided. In these times of war, the society was in chaos and the economy worsened. It was also the period when Taoism and Buddhism arrived in China, and a mystical school was created, the Xuanxue10. Then, scholars dreamed about living in reclusion far from the world and sought purely intellectual conversations. The intellectuals were very active, unconventional and unrestrained. The scholars of the period either indulged in hedonism, or tried to live in seclusion, or travelled in order to visit cherished famous landscape sceneries. Under the influence of this special atmosphere, literature and art developed greatly. For example, out of interest for landscape beauty, pastoral poetry and landscape painting were developed and reached great achievement. This period certainly marked the beginning of modern aesthetic conceptions. In this context, garden making also achieved a spectacular development, gardens created by member of the administration reached a peak, and private gardens multiplied actively. Among these, the bureaucrat and poet Shi Chong11 built the famous garden Jinguyuan12. In the book Luoyang Jialang Records13 was also recorded the garden of the Grand Minister of Agriculture of the time. These gardens' layout was not as imaginative as the political leader's parks of the period, such as the Tongqiaotai14 and Hualinyuan15, but according to the records, previously quoted private gardens reached a much higher achievement in the beauty of the natural landscape and the piling of rocks.



This period is also one of growth for temple gardens. Buddhism gradually developed in China during the Eastern Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms16 period. During the Wei and Jin dynasties, it acquired an impact on scholars through the intermediary of the mystical school Xuanxue. Around this time, temples were actively established, especially in the two main centres which were the southern capital Jiankang and the northern capital Luoyang. Thus the poets of the Tang dynasty described the Luoyang Buddhist temples as follows: ''Under the southern dynasty [in the capital] were four hundred eighty temples, numerous pavilions surrounded by the mist''. In fact the number of Buddhist temples in the surroundings of Luoyang really outnumbered those built around Jiankang. According to the Luoyang Jialang Records, among the more than sixty Buddhist temples in Luoyang, many possessed gardens, which proves that temple gardens underwent a great development at this period.


1. The Duke of Zhou, 周文公Zhou Wengong was a nobleman from the Zhou dynasty, brother to the ruler of Zhou. The Chinese legend gives him as the author of the Shijing, 诗经, Classic of Poetry.
2. The li is a traditional Chinese unit of distance, which exact value has varied over time. Nowadays it is equal to 500 meters.
3. Western Han dynasty 西汉Xi Han, from 206 BC to 24 AD, regarded as the first unified Chinese empire.
4. Emperor Wu of Western Han 汉武帝Han Wudi,(ruling from 141 BC to 87 BC).
5. Here in the sense of artificial, as opposed to natural landscape.
6. Eastern Han dynasty 东汉 Dong Han, from 25 AD to 220 AD.
7. Wei dynasty 曹魏 Cao Wei, from 220 to 265.
8. Jin dynasty Jin, from 266 to 420.
9. North and South dynasty 南北朝 Nanbei Chao, from 420 to 589.
10. Xuanxue, 玄学, a mystical philosophical school derived from Taoist theories, during the Wei and Jin dynasties.
11. Shi Chong 石崇 (249 - 300), poet originated from Qingzhou, minister under the Western Jin dynasty.
12. 金谷园 Jinguyuan. Famous historical private garden built by Shi Chong during the Jin dynasty, in the Golden valley situated to the north-west of Luoyang capital, in actual Henan province. Acquired an almost legendary status and is often cited in later poetry.
13. 洛阳伽蓝记: An important record containing collected works in literature, history, geography, Buddhism theory, centered on Luoyang capital. It was written under the northern Jin dynasty
14. 铜雀台Tongqiaotai. A garden created by Cao Cao from the Three Kingdoms period, supposedly located in the actual Linzhang county of Hebei province.
15. Hualinyuan华林苑, garden built in Luoyang during the northern Wei dynasty.
16. Period of the Three Kingdoms.