The Landscape Guide

Han Dynasty Chinese Garden Design (206BC to 220 AD)

It is clear from the information that comes through about the doings of the Han Dynasty, members of which occupied the throne from 206 B.C. to A.D. 201, that it was under these emperors that the fancy first started of making great mounds and building palaces on them, and then linking them up by bridges. It is expressly said that the capital city was not built on formal lines like the earlier ones, but made a kind of  “star-picture.” The Chinese certainly tell of far older gardens; but they do not conceal the fact that there is something legendary about the miraculous gardens of Kuen-luen, though they also tell of grand show-gardens of the Emperor Chou, which go back to two thousand years B.C. Parks, which were laid out chiefly with a view to the chase, were always disliked by the people, who thought they wasted good land. And it is obvious that historians regard gardens and parks as an error and a snare for princes, whose life of pleasure in their gardens and consequent neglect of rule made it so easy for the greedy heir to deprive them of throne and life. But there is nothing to show how these gardens were laid out.

Wu-ti (or Wudi), an emperor of the Han Dynasty, appears to have been conspicuous in his love for extensive grounds. The historians say that the gardens were fifty miles in area, and that every valley between the mountains had palaces, pavilions (Fig. 554) and grottoes scattered over it. 

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This emperor also made the state treasury and its surroundings. He built gardens and palaces for his beloved Fey-yen, about whose beauty writers such as the great lyrical poet Li-Tai-pe composed their inspired verses eight hundred years later. The summer palace of Chao-Yang is described by the poet as a sumptuous paradise of spring, where the emperor spent nights of love with Fey-yen.