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Chinese Gardens/中国园林



Peter Nesteruk


China Nationalities Art Photography Press (2016)




Contents Page     内容页





 Prelude: How to Understand the Space of the Garden





Part One: The Poetics of Gardens.




1 Rhetoric & Features  修辞和方面

2 The Anthropomorphism and Sublimity of Stone


3 Lakes and Pools: Water   水:湖和水塘

4 Bridges

5 Pavilions 亭子

6 Corridors走廊

7 Ritual 仪式

8 Contemplation I: Public and Private 思考I: 公共和私人

9 Gardens in Painting (i) : On Landscape and Grounds


10 Gardens in Painting (ii) : ‘On Landscape and Left/Right’


11 Waterfalls 瀑布

12 Time and the Seasons 时间与季节

13 7 Stars Park, Guilin 七星公园 桂林

14 Confucian Temple 孔子寺庙,国子监

15 Contemplation II: Gardens of Beijing 思考II:北京的园林

16 Comparative Aesthetics/Crossing Cultures 比较美学

17 The Eternal Present 永远的现在













              Part Two: Passing Seasons  第二部分: 过着季节






1 Forward; Death and Memory, Passing Seasons in the Chinese Garden ; 过季节; 死亡和记忆


2 Prelude.介绍


3 Winter 冬天

4 Spring 春天

5 Summer 夏天

6 Autumn 秋天


7 Other’s Gardens: Finitude and Alterity.

另外者的园林: 有限性和差别性


8 Postscript: The Philosophical Aesthetics and Poetics of Gardens 后言:哲学,美学和分析园林























Prelude: How to Understand Garden Space                           





Garden space offers a sense of place unlike any other. At once homely and otherworldly; partaking of the everyday yet suggesting the ideal. A special place with a particular set of meanings. In contrast to our urban civilization, it offers Nature, greenery, pleasant paths, the scents of flowers amid restful, even meditative, scenery; a harmonious space, often blending water and stone, where we can relax, or the perfect background to the good life. (Or it may be deliberately un-harmonious as in the case of Romantic or even Baroque, European gardens where it is the wilderness that is counterfeited). In contrast to real Nature, however, the Garden space, of whatever kind, is safe, enclosed, with paths we are happy for our children to tread. The age-old fear of predators is absent: the ancient dream of a Pastoral landscape realised. We have Nature without teeth (Nature, as such, is precisely what is excluded). Were we to suddenly find ourselves in virgin jungle, we would not be so happy.


Gardens, when we stop to think, are a matter of Culture, of a dream, a vision, the creation of a heavenly place, apparently natural, but friendly to Mankind - available here on Earth. Paradise Regained. All gardens carry a trace of the Garden of Eden; all allude to our urban myth of a primeval unity with Nature… before the Fall. However if the grand myths of human civilization, concerning the balance of Culture and Nature in our lives as well as the accompanying question of what is authentic to human life, are on show in the thinking of the Garden (are we made by Nature or Culture, ‘nature or nurture’), then it is our personal culture that is shown by our ability to appreciate, to own - or even design a Garden of our own. Culture is always a matter of identity formation. Our imagination of ourselves, of our identity. So again the Garden reminds us of who we are, or of how we would like to live. A matter of personal cultivation, or our own measure of civilization - or that to which we would aspire.


Chinese garden space in particular has exercised a special spell over garden design throughout the world. Much copied, from oriental corners in Western botanical gardens to complete replicas in ‘stately homes’ and public parks; as important to Western garden designers as Tang poetry to aspiring poets or shuimo (水墨) to students of art. A ‘globalisation’, from East to West, that began several hundred years ago. The spell of the Chinese garden is that of an exquisitely crafted space where the marks of the master craftsman have all but disappeared… ‘all but’? The space before us is natural; but impossibly so. Precise, orderly, balanced: the trace of the watch maker remains. If there are no corners or geometric angles (as predominate in Western renaissance and ‘classical’ and Arab or Persian influenced gardens) then there are the windings of path and stream, a careful intertwining of water and stone, and the slow revelation of a view in the manner of celestial movements and their orbits. Here too, in the movements of the sun and the stars, the watchmaker is absent. What then, in short, determines the specificity of the Chinese Garden? To locate certain emotionally significant features of Nature and to reproduce them with maximum clarity and charm. But this would be to preempt the contents of this book, and most cogently the introductory comments that now follow in chapter one.


For those interested in the problems of comparison of Chinese and Western cultural artifacts, perhaps without falling into the trap of one’s own ’way of seeing’, Chapter 16, entitled, ‘Comparative Aesthetics’, suggests a novel way of comparing and understanding the kinds of beauty found both East and West - as well as a quick look at a pair of key concepts we Westerners habitually use to discuss and understand landscape and garden space, the Beautiful and the Sublime. Suggesting that comparative study throws light not only on the cultural practice in question, but also on the way we think – on what is different and on what it is we may share.

















Copyright Peter Nesteruk, 2016