The Landscape Guide

A classification of Chinese garden types

In pre-20th century China, gardens were designed as an abstract art inspired by natural landscape, particularly mountain and water scenery. Gardens, understood as aesthetically designed outdoor space infused every aspect of life. This is confirmed by ancient paintings, gantha, archaeology and surviving sites. Different types of space were made for different user groups and the most common Chinese garden types may be classified as follows:

  1. Imperial hunting park
  2. Royal garden (imperial garden)  
  3. Temple gardens (including Bhuddhist Garden, Dao Garden and Confucius Garden )
  4. Scholar garden(Private garden)
  5. Cemetery gardens
  6. Natural Scenic Park(Resort park)  
  7. College garden
  8. Courtyards

The philosophy of Chinese garden design

Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, are significant aspects of classical Chinese philosophy and together influenced the creation of Chinese Garden. Of the three, Taoism had the greatest influence. Taoist thought generally focuses on nature and on relationships between humanity and the cosmos,in order to establish harmony between man and nature. Most gardens had irregular geometrical layouts coming from the image of natural mountains, rivers and lakes. But two garden types, the Temple garden and the Cemetery garden, often had regular geometrical layout influenced by the Confucius. The Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing is a good example.
Classical Chinese city planning conformed strictly to the principles of Confucianism. Confucius provided an orderly structure for social relationships and this influenced the orderly design of cities. Buddhism influenced the poetic imagery of gardens with poetic ideas coming from the human mind. A stone could symbolize a mountain, making conception make the Chinese garden an abstract art form.

Xiaomin Wu
Faculty of Hydraulic and Architectural Engineering,
Yunnan Agricultural University, Kunming, Yunnan,
P.R. China
























4. Chinese Scholar Garden

1. Chengde Imperial Hunting Park

2.Imperial Garden in the Forbidden City China

3. Confucian Temple Garden

5.Chinese Imperial Cemetery Garden Cemetery outside Beijing

3. Temple of Heaven and Temple of Agriculture in Beijing

6. Hangzhou West Lake Natural Scenic Park

7. Yuelu Academy Changsha College Garden (image courtesy nozomiiqel)

8. Chinese courtyard garden