Characteristics of Chinese Gardens
The garden is one of the important types of architectural art. It is essentially aimed at organizing an environment rich in temperament and interest and full of the beauty of artistic conception through the so-called four gardening elements including mountains, rivers, structures and plants, as well as the organic components such as roads, interior settings. In comparison to ordinary structures, the spiritual character of gardens is more outstanding, and it requires that artists have greater and higher ingenuity and imagination.
Compared with other gardening systems of the world, such as European or Islamic, Chinese gardens have their distinct national characteristics:
a:Paying attention to natural beauty. Chinese gardens carry out processing and transformation of the original terrain and land form by following the principle of "making it seem like nature", or seem naturally formed, so as to satisfy people's feeling of getting close to nature.
b: Pursuing many twists and turns. Nature itself is ever-changing and interesting. Chinese horticulturists who emulate nature necessarily pursue changing, free-style composition. It is of a completely different system compared with the Western landscape gardening theory of compels nature to accept the symmetrical rules.
c:Advocating artistic conception. Beautiful environment created by Chinese horticulturists does not stop at the stage of formal beauty, but tries to express inward feeling through outward scenery. Therefore, the ultimate key to the high or low level and success or failure in the creation of Chinese gardens depends on the cultural level, and the high or low level and crudeness or refinement of esthetic temperament and the interest of the creator.
Chinese horticulture began in the Qin Dynasty (1644-1911), and two royal garden construction upsurges occurred during the Qin/Han (221BC-220AD) and Sui/Tang (581-907) dynasties. Private gardens saw great development by men of letters during the Tang and Song dynasties, and entered the peaking stage in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1644-1911). The achievements in gardening during the Qing Dynasty attract greater attention, representing an important component of the third development upsurge in Chinese architecture. Almost all of the existing gardens were preserved during this age. The extant royal gardens are in the vicinity of Beijing, while private gardens of a higher artistic level are mostly 1concentrated in areas south of the Yangtze River. They constitute the two major schools of Chinese gardening.
Garden building is considered a chief component of Chinese culture. The chinese garden has a long history.It first appeared in the form of a hunting preserve for emperors and nobles in the 11th century B.C during the Zhou Dynasty. Druing the Qin and Han dynasties,those natural preserves were made more beautiful and became places of recreation for imperial families.
Garden design was an art in China. One of the most common ways to make a Chinese home more elegant was to develop one or more compounds into a garden with plants, rocks, and garden buildings. Gardens were especially appreciated for their great beauty and naturalness. In time, garden design came to be regarded as a refined activity for the well-heeled and well-educated.
The Chinese consider gardens a serious art form and as with painting, sculpture and poetry aim to attain in their design the balance, harmony, proportion and variety that are considered essential to life. In fact there is a saying which goes, 'the garden is an artistic recreation of nature; a landscape painting in three dimensions" . Through a combination of such natural elements as rock, water, trees and flowers and such artificial elements as architecture, painting and poetry, the designer sought to attain an effect which adhered to the Daoist principles of balance and harmony, man and nature.
Garden building saw its heyday during the Ming and Qing dynasties and the imperial garden Yuanming Yuan was regarded as a masterpiece in this period. Different from the classical European gardens, in which geometric patterns dominate, Chinese gardens are made to resemble natural landscapes on a smaller scale. Traditional Chinese gardens fall into three categories, namely, imperial, private, and landscape gardens.
Most imperial gardens are located in north china: Beihai park; the Summer Palace; the Imperial Garden of the Forbidden City in Beijing; The Imperial Summer Resort in Chengde, Hebei Province; and Huaqing Palace in Xian Shaanxi Province. Imperial gardens occupy large areas. The summer Palace, for instance,has an area of 290 hectares while the Imperial Summer Resort in Chengde, which covers more than 560 hectares, is the largest imperial garden in China. Most of these gardens have three sections which serve administrative, residential, and recreational purposes. In large imperial gardens, the main buildings are connected by an imaginary line in the middle of the garden on a norht-south axis. Other buildings scattered among hills and waters are linked by subordinate lines, forming a well-designed symmetry and adding beauty to the chief architecural complex.
Other characteristics of the imperial gardens are coloured painitings, screen walls, stone tablets, bridges, man-made hills and lakes and ingeniously-designed buildings. Decorated archways abound in those gardens.
Most private gardens are found in the south, especially in cities south of the Yangtse River. Private gardent were mostly built at one side or the back of the residential houses. In almost every garden. there is a large space in the garden set in a landscape of artistically arranged rockeries, ponds, pavilions, bridages, trees, and flowers. Surrounding the beautiful scene are small open areas partitioned by corridors or walls with latticed windows or beautifully shaped doors. Buildings in the garden were used for receiving guests,holding banquets, reading, or writing poetry, They are open on all sides and are oftn situated near the water. The winding corridors connect various buildings and also provide a covered veranda as shelter from the rain and shade from the sun.
Suzhou, known as the home of gardens,displays the most and the best traditional private gardens in china. Among them, the Pavilion of the Surging Waves is known for its rustic charm, Lion Grove for its strang rockeries the Humble Administrater's Garden for its tranquil waters and elegant buildings,and the Garden for Lingerring In for its ancient architectural art and the arrangement of hills, waters and plants. They re the examples of the garden styles of the song, Yunan, Ming and Qing dynasties respectively.
Gardens in Yangzhou are characterized by their architectural style and artistic rockeries, whereas Guangdong style gardens are distinguished by large ponds, brightly coloured buildings, and luxuriant plants.
Landscape gardens are different and are place for public recreation. The landscape garden mainly contains natural scenes, so it looks more natural than artificial. Good examples include the ten West Lake scenes in Hangzhou, the twenty-four Slim West Lake scenes in yangzhou. and the eight Daming Lake scenes in Jinan.
A common feature of Chinese garden architecture is the waterside pavilion - a derivation of an ancient wooden house supported on stilts. It later became the fashion to build waterside pavilions upon the lake or pond of a garden so that half the structure was built on land, while the other half was raised on stilts above a body of water. So as to allow viewing of the garden from all sides of the building, decorative windows were placed along the periphery of the wall. Such a waterside pavilion can be seen in the Humble Administrator's Garden .
Another key element of Chinese gardens is their covered corridors, built to allow the owners to enjoy the garden in the rain and snow. These covered walkways fall into two categories, those which connect buildings and those which are built by the shore of a small pond or lake. As with waterside pavilions, corridors often have windows or "scenic openings", which act as picture frames directing the eye to particular views of the garden. Such scenic openings were designed simply as circles, squares or ovals or in more imaginative shapes like those of a lotus petal, garland or bay leaf.
Often the most exquisite elements of a Chinese garden can be found in its details. Such is the case with the footpaths, imaginatively patterned with coloured pebbles into a variety of designs along the ground. A common motif is that of the square within a circle, signifying the ancient belief that the "heaven is round and the earth square". Good luck omens may also often be found. Whilst the bat and crane symbolize good fortune and longevity, the fishing net portends affluence. There are, in addition, often depictions of scenes from well-known traditional paintings and legends.
The Garden of the Master of the Nets is one of the smallest gardens in Suzhou, but is also consider one of its finest. Constructed in the twelfth century and then, after a period of abandonment, restored during the eighteenth century, it was the residence of a retired official. The eastern part of the grounds served as the residential area, the central section was the main garden and the western portion the inner garden. The Humble Administrator's Garden was so-named after a Jin dynasty (1115-1234) poem which read, 'Watering the garden and selling vegetables constitute a humble administrator's business.' Originally the home of the Tang Poet, Lu Guimou, the garden took on its present form during the Ming dynasty and is perhaps one of the most representative of Ming dynasty garden designs.
Many famous poets and painters contributed greatly to the development of landscape gardens. They either left poetic inscriptions for those gardens, or designed many of the gardens themselves. In order to commemorate those poets and painters,later generations had their poems and inscriptions engraved on tablets, pavilions, or pagodas, thus enriching and ispiring visitors.