The Landscape Guide

City gardens in China

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One should preferably not plan a garden in the city, but if one does so it should be situated in a sheltered corner; even if the neighborhood is vulgar, all noise is shut out when the gate is closed. One opens a path that is uneven and undulating. Over the tops of the trees and bamboo canes the crenellation of the city wall appears as if floating in the air. The winding canal that runs just outside is spanned before the gate by a long ‘rainbow bridge.’
In the big courtyard one may plant wu-t’ung trees, while willows are set along the meandering stream. Without such trees one cannot create a hermitage, but where there are trees it is easy.
The buildings should be placed so as to harmonize with the natural formation of the ground. The drainage canal for water should be paved with stone. One erects a pa vilion where the view opens and plants flowers that smile in the face of the spring breeze. Another open pavilion is erected in the shade of the wu-t’ung trees. The moon is swallowed in the clear water of the pond. When the rain and mist have passed and all the buildings in the city look as if newly washed, one may take one’s books and paintings out in the open air.
The waterfall looks like white silk in the mirror. The mountains, which stand in a circle like a tall screen be yond the town, are blue.
The white peonies should be enclosed, but the red roses do not need any support; they can lean against the stones. One should above all avoid making an espalier of them. Those which have been tied for a long time must be renewed, while those which have been permitted to grow freely last longer.
A little mountain may give rise to many effects; a small stone may evoke many feelings. The shadow of the dry leaves of the banana tree is beautifully outlined upon the paper of the window. In the hollows of the bulging rocks the crawling roots of the pines are entwined.
In such a garden one may live as a hermit even in the city, which is better than living in a bird’s nest. If one can thus find stillness in the midst of the city turmoil, why should one then renounce such an easily accessible nearby spot and seek a more distant one? As soon as one is free one can go there and ramble as one pleases, hand in hand with one’s friend.