The Landscape Guide

Text and articles on the History of Chinese Gardens

Popular view of Chinese garden history

The below text on Chinese gardens was copied from Wikipedia on 11 March 2009 and is interesting both for what it says and for what it does not say. Concentration on the 'Scholar's garden'  is an unnecessary restriction and use of the phrase 'to be considered authentic' is of course preposterous for an art which developed over a period of 5,000 years.

"The Chinese (Scholar's) Garden is a place for solitary or social contemplation of nature. To be considered authentic, a garden must be built and planned around seventeen essential elements: 1) proximity to the home; 2) small; 3) walled; 4) small individual sections; 5) asymmetrical; 6) various types of spatial connections; 7) architecture; 8) rocks; 9) water; 10) trees; 11) plants; 12) sculpture; 13) jie jing (borrowed scenery); 14) chimes; 15) incense burners; 16) inscriptions; 17) use of feng shui for choosing site. Chinese gardens were created in the same way as a combination of landscape and paintings together with poems - this was the so-called "poetic garden." The design of Chinese gardens was to provide a spiritual utopia for one to connect with nature, to come back to one's inner heart, to come back to ancient idealism. Chinese gardens are a spiritual shelter for men, a place they could be far away from their real social lives, and close to the ancient way of life, their true selves, and nature. This was an escape from the frustration and disappointment of the political problems in China. They used plants as symbols. Bamboo was used in every traditional Chinese garden. This is because bamboo represents a strong but resilient character. Often pine is used to represent longevity, persistence, tenacity and dignity. The lotus is used to symbolize purity. The flowering plum is one of the most important aspects of a Chinese garden, as it represents renewal and strength of will. Flowering peaches are grown for spring color, and sweet olive as well. The chrysanthemum is use to symbolize splendor, luster and "the courage to make sacrifices for a natural life". Peonies symbolize wealth and banana trees are used simply for the sound they make in the breeze."