Final Essay: Question #2

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Final Essay: Question #2

My Chinese Garden: Introduction

            A Chinese garden refers to garden enclosed in walls that is designed to recreate various natural landscapes in miniature form. Classical Chinese gardens are revered and regarded as the perfection of art involved in the expression of ideas and creativity throughout the history of Chinese civilizations and dynasties (Cheng (程骥) 3). The gardens, built and sponsored by emperors, prominent scholars, and members of the imperial family, were used for aesthetics, pleasure, and as reflection spaces. Classical Chinese gardens are designed using skills emanating from ancient Chinese traditional gardening values and techniques that have been handed down from one generation to another through time. Traditional Chinese building techniques have been transmitted through generations to ensure that design concepts are adhered to facilitate the creation of miniature worlds inside limited spaces (Cheng (程骥) 4). The construction of Chinese classical gardens was and still considered a masterful expression of various artistic competencies in a restricted environment such as a walled garden. The art of classical Chinese gardens can be traced back 3,000 years ago and each generation and/or dynasty henceforth has made its contributions towards improving the technique. There are several original classical Chinese gardens in the world located in Suzhou, with 8 having been designated as UNESCO world heritage sites for protection and preservation of what is regarded as a unique representation of Chinese landscape designs over more than 2,000 years. The design and construction of an impressive Chinese classical garden requires the keen consideration of the highest principles of Chinese art and demonstrate the ability to manifest the spirit of Yin Yang Opposite Theory.

Principles of Chinese Art

            Classical Chinese gardens are considered as a critical part of China’s traditional cultural treasures that represent the special appeal of the country’s cultural heritage. These gardens can also be referred to as Literati gardens from an artistic perspective. Literati Chinese gardens hold an imminent position in Chinese artistic culture because of its unique expression of architecture, whimsical stones, exotic flowers, and miniature water bodies or ponds (Chang (常忠元) 26). Accordingly, classical Chinese gardens provided social amenities or locations where people could interact and express their perspectives of daily life in various art forms. Literati gardens provided venues for artistic creation, social gathering, academic writings, and other cultural activities deemed appropriate by ancient Chinese scholars. Consequently, Chang (常忠元) states that the wealth of Chinese cultural factors got embedded in the art of landscape architecture that was imbued with various traditional cultures through time to create a unique culture of Chinese gardens (32). Chinese gardens are believed to represent the critical embodiment of various facets of Chinese culture such as an ancient patriarchal system, cosmology, and personality ideals. The design of a classical Chinese garden requires the consideration of the highest principles of Chinese art that include line, form, unity, emphasis, rhythm, balance, proportion, texture, pattern, color, movement, and point.

Spirit of Yin Yang: Opposite Theory

The spirit of Yin Yang is a tenet of Chinese philosophy that is based on the concept of two polar components that are opposite to and complement each other. The original source of this philosophy was in reference to one side facing the sun or yang and the other facing away or the yin (Chen (陈祥桥), and Jianguo (吴建国) 1017). The meaning of yin and yang became extended to associate yang with bright, colorful, and positive elements, while yin was related to dark, cold, and negative aspects. Apparently, all elements of Chinese culture contain a conscious or unconscious effort to demonstrate the balance between yin and yang. The spirit of yin yang is based on the opposite theory that states each element is composed of two facets; the yin and yang aspect that contrast each other (Chen (陈祥桥), and Jianguo (吴建国) 1025). The two facets interact with each other in a contrasting relationship that emanates from their different and opposite properties that manifest as check interaction and mutual control.

The constant change of phenomena is attributed to the mutual controlling and checking interaction, for example, the changing of seasons from yang or spring and summer and yin autumn and winter. For this reason, it would surmise to expect that classical Chinese gardens are designed in a manner that maintains balance between spirits of yin and yang (Keswick and Alison n.p). Designers and creators of literati gardens strive to ensure that they achieve the delicate balancing of the four main elements of water, architecture, stone, and plants. Balancing these elements in the designing of a Chinese classical garden achieves the creation of a harmonious environment whereby the yin and yang energies contrast and complement each other to create a sensual, aesthetic, and spiritual experience for visitors (Chen (陈祥桥), and Jianguo (吴建国) 1036).

Design of Classical Chinese Garden

The first task in designing a classical Chinese garden is considering how to balance the four vital elements of literati design elements of Chinese gardens. Water is incorporated to represent the yin energy that functions as the living pulse of the garden and giving it life and sustenance (Keswick and Alison n.p). The architecture or arrangement of buildings is a critical component of a Chinese garden, which is designed to create space used to enhance various features of the garden such as views, plants, and designs. Stones are important components of a Chinese garden and it represents yang energy that balances off the yin energy of the water, whereby they are used to simulate miniature rock formations and mountains as illustrated in Figure1 below.

Fig1: Classical Gardens of Suzhou (China) by Francesco Bandarin Retrieved from

            Plants are an essential constituent of a literati Chinese garden, where they are used to express human personality ideals, such as vines for human resilience and endurance, bamboo depict flexibility, and lotus exhibits purity (Xiaofeng (小凤,方) 78). Plant species are selected according to the intended message of the patron and in this case, I will incorporate climbing plants, Chilean indigenous trees, grasses, shrubs, and bushes.

            The classical garden of my choice will incorporate pergolas and arbors that serve both purposes of practicality and aesthetics by creating focal points and enhance vertical planes. Arbors and pergolas offer support to climbing plant vines and shade where people can shelter from the elements. Balancing of the opposite spirits of yin and yang will be critical to my design. I will ensure that a winding stream emanating from a rock fountain creates a pond, with a stature of Jupiter holding the world up being its center piece. Streams and fountains reflect various features of the architecture accentuating its beauty, while at the same time creating a calming ambience through the sights and sounds water generates. I will design various hallways and walkways over the pond and winding stream which will contain various ornamental fish species from different habitats in Chile to increase people’s interaction with the space.

Works Cited

Chang, Chung-yuan (常忠元). Creativity and Taoism: A Study of Chinese Philosophy, Art, and Poetry. Singing Dragon, 2011. pp. 23-58.
Chen, Xiangqiao (陈祥桥), and Jianguo Wu (吴建国). "Sustainable Landscape Architecture: Implications of the Chinese Philosophy of “Unity of Man With Nature” and Beyond." Landscape Ecology, vol. 24, no. 8, 2009, pp. 1015-1026.
Cheng, Ji (程骥). The Craft of Gardens:[The Classic Chinese Text on Garden Design]. Better Link Press, 2012. 1-6.
Keswick, Maggie, and Alison Hardie. The Chinese Garden: History, Art and Architecture. Harvard University Press, 2003.
Xiaofeng, Fang (小凤,方). The Great Gardens of China: History, Concepts, Techniques. Monacelli Press, 2010. 68-134.

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