The Garden Guide

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

Woo-yuen garden in China

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786. The gardens of Woo-yuen are thus described in Ellis's Journal of an Embassy to China, 1818 :-'We stopped opposite the gardens of Woo-yuen, which, after a little hesitation on the part of the mandarins, we were allowed to visit. Although now much neglected, they were interesting as a specimen of Chinese gardening. The Chinese are certainly good imitators of nature, and their piles of rocks are not liable to the same ridicule as some modern Gothic ruins in England; indeed, they are works of art on so great a scale, that they may well bear a rivalship with the original : the buildings are spread over the ground without any attention to effect being produced by their exterior, unconnected with the scenery ; the object seems to be, to furnish pretexts for excursions within the enclosure, which is so disposed as to appear more extensive than it really is. Much labour has been expended upon the walks, which, in some places, resemble mosaic work. These gardens were a favourite resort of Kien-long, whose dining-room and study were shown to us; in the latter was a black marble slab, with a poem inscribed upon it, composed by his majesty, in praise of the garden. The characters were particularly well executed. The trees in the garden were chiefly the O'lea fragrans and some planes.' (Vol. i. p. 433.) [Editor's Note: Woo-yuen would now be spelt Wu Yuan but the garden has not been identified]