The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 5: Gardens in Asia, America, Africa, Australia

Chinese books on gardens and gardening

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811. Among the Chinese books on gardening and agriculture is one entitled Tehoung-kia-pao. This work, in four volumes, begins, like that of Hesiod, with the elements of morality, and then proceeds to treat of all that is necessary to be known of the country, agriculture, laws, and medicine. This work formed part of the Chinese writings on, agriculture which were excluded from the general proscription of books in the third century after the Christian era. The Chinese have a fine poem on gardening, published in 1086. The author was one of the first Chinese writers, and the greatest minister that China has produced. His garden, which gives a general idea of the style of Chinese gardening as an art of taste, contained only twenty acres of land. An apartment, containing 5000 volumes, is placed by the author at the head of its useful beauties. On the south were seen in the midst of the waters, cascades, galleries with double terraces, and hedges of rose and pomegranate trees; on the west, a solitary portico, evergreen trees, cottages, meadows, sheets of water surrounded with turf, and a labyrinth of rocks ; on the north, cottages placed as if by chance, on little hills, and groves of bamboos with gravel walks ; on the east, a small plain, a wood of cedars, odoriferous plants, medicinal plants, shrubs, citron trees and orange trees, a walk of willows, a grotto, a warren, islands covered with aviaries, bridges of wood and stone, a pond, some old firs, and an extensive view over the river Kiang. Such was the delightful spot where the author of the poem amused himself with hunting, fishing, and botany. At that time we had no garden in Europe to be compared to it, nor any man who could describe it in good poetry. Madame Dubocage translated a Chinese idyl into verse, entitled The Labourer, and which has the same date as this poem on gardening. The imposing ceremony of the commencement of the labours, by the emperor himself, in the beginning of spring, is still more ancient in China. It was established 150 years before the Christian era. The soldiers in China plough, sow, and reap. In the tribunals of the empire there is a president, superintendent, and director-general of agriculture. (Olivier de Serres, Historical Introd. to the edit. of 1804 ; Gard. Mag., vol. i. p. 449.)