The Landscape Guide

Yuanye Discourse on Chinese Gardens

Yuanye Chinese garden design - homepage - Yuanye Discourse on Chinese Gardens  - Suitable Sites for Chinese gardens  - City gardens in China  - Trees and Mountains for Chinese gardens  - Country Village gardens in China  - Country gardens in China  - Chinese house and garden  - Chinese gardens by Rivers and Lakes  - Selection of Stones for Chinese garden design
When making a garden, whether in the town or in the country, one should preferably select a sequestered spot. One then clears the trees and the undergrowth of the swampy ground. The prospects are arranged according to the nature of the site. On the banks of streams one should plan orchids and irises. Paths should be laid down for ‘three kinds of good friends.’  The garden should be made to last for a thousand years.
The surrounding wall may be hidden by creepers. The buildings are disposed in such a way as to be partly concealed by the trees. From a high building on a hill one can see a great distance. In the bamboo grove on the river bank there is stillness; there the heart is captivated.
The row of pillars before the house should be tall and spacious. The view from windows and doors must not be obscured by neighbours; one must be able to gaze far away, as over endless waters, and enjoy the shifting hues of the four seasons.
The shadow of the wu-t’ung tree falls upon the ground, and the courtyard is shaded by huai trees. Willows are planted on the river bank and plum trees around the house. A straw-thatched hut is erected in the bamboo grove. One digs a channel for water from a remote source.
The mountains stand in a row like ornamental screens; they rear aloft with deep blue peaks. They look as if they had been created by heaven, although they are the work of human hands. Through a round opening in the wall appears a hidden temple as in a painting by little Li.  The steep rock formations are built up of rugged stone blocks, jagged and split as in Ta-ch’ih’s paintings. The site is chosen in the vicinity of a temple; then one may hear the recitation of sutras.
The remote mountain peaks, gleaming with wondrous hues, form a fascinating background. When the atmosphere has shifting violet tones and the clouds are shot with blue one may hear, after retiring to rest, the cry of the cranes. White and red water plants, p’ing and liao, sprout among the stones where the gulls flock.
If one desires to look more closely at the mountains one may use a bamboo sedan, but one goes down to the water on foot, supporting oneself on one’s staff. The crenellation of the rising and falling wall seems to float in the air; the long bridge is like a rainbow. In a spot like this one does not need to envy Mo-chi his Wang-ch’uan or Chi-lun his Chin-ku.
A little lake is enough to make the summer pleasant, nor is it necessary to have extensive grounds covering 100 mou to retain the spring. Tame deer entice to walks; fish that have been introduced may be caught here. In the cool pavilion one may drink one’s ice-chilled wine while the breeze plays among bamboo canes and trees. In the heated room one may sit by the coal basket and melt snow for tea-water. One quenches one’s thirst and all worries soon vanish.
The raindrops of the night, which fall on the banana leaves, are like the tears of the weeping mermaid like pearls.  When the morning breeze blows through the willow trees they sway like the slender waist of a dancing girl. Before the window one plants bamboo, and pear trees between the courtyards. The moonlight lies like glittering water over the countryside. The wind sighs in the trees and gently touches the lute and the book that lie on the bed. The dark undulating mirror of water swallows the half moon. When day dawns one is awakened by the fresh breeze that reaches the bed. All the world’s dust is blown out of one’s mind.