The techniques of landscape construction in Ancient Chinese Gardens

  • offcial website of Beijing Expo 2019  2017-Sep-15 14:29:24

The landscaping of ancient Chinese gardens stresses the harmony and coordination between man and nature by using multiple methods in design to express the beauty of nature in the best way. The basic methods of landscaping for ancient gardens are borrowing, adding, framing, revealing, contrasting, suppressing, blocking, etc. The method to be used is decided based on the nature and size of the garden, as well as location and time.

Borrowing means introducing sceneries from outside the garden to increase the depth of field and add more layers, thus creating unlimited view in a limited space and integrating elements within and without of the garden. Borrowing includes far borrowing (remote mountain), near borrowing (big trees), upward borrowing (building and pavilion), downward borrowing (fish in the pond) and time-based borrowing (flowers and plants). Borrowing can expand the space of the garden, create vivid images, and add viewing layers, and that is why it has an extremely important role in the art of garden design in China. The famous garden designer Ji Cheng said in The Craft of Gardens that “the subtlety is in borrowing, and the refinement is in proper design”. Chengde Mountain Resort borrows natural mountains and the Eight Outer Temples to create an image of “garden outside garden” and “scenery outside scenery”.

Adding refers to the practice of adding scenery to an open field, a simple landscape or a place that lacks depth of field to change the situation. If there are mountains and towers far away and no transition in the middle, then it feels empty and lacks a sense of layer. Adding some trees, plants and flowers as decoration can make a better picture. The Kunming Lake is the front view, the Wanshou Mountain is the back view, and a long corridor added in between them creates a lovely and perfectly harmonious scenery.

Framing means introducing external views into the limited space as a frame. The frames applied can be doors, windows, caves, galleries, tree branches binding into a frame, etc. Framing can gather the scattered views, add a finishing touch, and realize the change of view by the change of viewer’s position, which in effect is a collection of the beauty of nature and art. The moon gate in the Slender West Lake in Yangzhou is the epitome of framing. Through only one gate, visitors can see the Bridge of the Five Pavilions, which is the landmark of Yangzhou. When “seeing the Bridge of the Five Pavilions in one gate”, tourists always take a picture as they reach the moon gate; from the other door they can also see the White Tower.

Revealing refers to the practice of revealing the views behind a flower wall and a gallery wall through the windows, screens, branches and gaps between plants to combine beautiful views within and without the garden, gallery and the woods. This is a method of creating a partly visible view that is elegant and mysterious.

Contrasting refers to the practice that allows appreciating views from two points interchangeably. Many gardens in China applies this method, because Chinese gardens consist mainly of natural landscapes. These gardens often put a pond or pool in the middle as the main part of the design, and above the water is a good space for viewing from different perspective. The views around the pond, including rockeries, trees, bamboos, stones, pavilions, bridges, lofts, halls, galleries, cabinets, etc. can all be seen no matter where you stand.

Suppressing means temporarily hiding the best views in the garden in order to better show them later. “Hiding before showing” and “suppressing before revealing” are the guiding ideas. This method can create an artistic effect that allows viewers to “suddenly see the light”. Ancient gardens in China often use rockeries, trees and buildings to suppress the most important or beautiful view in the garden. By showing the whole view later when visitors are in the mood, this method can enhance the artistic appeal and offer the best entertainment. When visitors enter from the east gate of the Summer Palace, out of the Renshou Palace, and walk south along the path southeast of the courtyard house of Yulan Hall, they will see an earth piled hill and trees. This is a good example of suppressing. Combined with the method of borrowing, including upward borrowing (building and pavilion), downward borrowing (fish in the pond) and time-based borrowing (flowers and plants), it can produce great results. Borrowing can expand the space of the garden, create vivid images, and add viewing layers, and that is why it has an extremely important role in the art of garden design in China. The famous garden designer Ji Cheng said in The Craft of Gardens that “the subtlety is in borrowing, and the refinement is in proper design”. Chengde Mountain Resort borrows natural mountains and the Eight Outer Temples to create an image of “garden outside garden” and “scenery outside scenery”.

Blocking means using rockeries, trees, buildings etc. to block views that are not good for expressing the beauty of the garden, and at the same time add to the decoration of the landscape in design. If there are indecent places ahead, buildings or objects that will undermine the beauty of the garden, attractive features can be built to block the view and add to the beautiful landscape. Examples include screen walls ahead, and a wall of closely planted pine trees on both sides of the garden path.

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