The Landscape Guide

Timeline: Chinese garden design history




Like West Asia and Europe, China has three primary types of enclosed and vegetated outdoor space: hunting parks, domestic gardens and religious gardens. Though China's ancient hunting parks have vanished, the great imperial landscape parks which are their close relatives survive (eg the West Lake and Beihai). Ordered domestic courtyards, made under the influence of Confucius, remain in old Chinese towns. Stylised representations of the natural world made by scholars under the influence of Taoism and Buddhism have become famous as 'the scholar gardens of China'.

c600 BCE Lao Tzu

563-483 BCE Buddha

551-479 BCE Confucius

500 BCE Tiger Hill

300 BCE Chinese lacquer paintings (on bronze) showing huntsmen, possibly in hunting parks (see Chinese characters for Tree and Park, from a seal script)

240 BCE Shang-lin Hunting Park at Ch'ang an

68 CE Buddhism reaches China and first Buddhist temple in Luoyang

604 CE Lo-yang Pleasure Park at Luoyang

612 CE Ono-no-Imoko visits China as an emissary from Japan (see chronology of Japanese gardens)

1000 CE Chinese landscape painting became established. Mi Fu (or Mi Fei 1051-1107), took a rock as his ‘brother’ and bow to it each day. He created the "Mi style" of ink-wash landscape painting and was a great calligrapher.

1044 CE The Surging Waves Pavilion in Suzhou

1126 Juchen capture Hangzhou and the West Lake developed as a landscape park

c1200 CE Beihai Park in Beijing

1275 CE Marco Polo visits China and describes the Forbidden City and Hangzhou

1421 CE Bejing becomes the capital of China

1440 The Master-of-Fishing Nets Garden in Suzhou

1703 The Imperial Summer Mountain Resort in Chengde

1872 Hu Xue-yan Villa (Hu Xueyan Garden)

See information on Chinese gardens to visit and advice on tours of Chinese gardens