Chinese Gardens and the Huntington Library Asian Herb Garden
The Chinese term for landscape is shan shui. This means “mountains and water.” The two elements contrast and compliment each other; water is calm and yielding and rock is the skeleton of the earth. Chinese gardens are typically made with trees and plants that change with the seasons, and provide the visitor with aromas and sounds. The landscape is often surrounded by water. The Chinese are known to have some of the most beautiful gardens in the world, and a Chinese garden is no different.
Many plants in the Chinese garden have symbolic meaning. For instance, the Chinese value bamboo, which bends in the wind and doesn’t break, suggesting an honorable man. The orchid is another favorite. The flower’s scent is evocative of the true gentleman, and the peony represents fecundity and elegance. Chrysanthemum is the oldest cultivated flower in China, and represents autumn. The Chinese approach plants from a spiritual perspective, and plants in the garden are often called by Latin names.
While Chinese gardens are not as open as their Western counterparts, they do have a poetic side. The combination of trees and plants and water is a beautiful way to express nature and the poetic prospect that comes with it. This poetic splendor is enhanced when combined with Chinese poetry, calligraphy, and traditional Chinese paintings. It is important to understand the philosophies and philosophy behind these aesthetic choices. They are important and meaningful to Chinese society.
The Chinese use of rocks in their gardens is symbolic. The peaks of the mountains represent stability and virtue, and are a central focus of the mythological Isles of the Immortals. It is no surprise that the mountain serves as the centerpiece of Chinese gardens. The plants used to build the mountain are chosen based on their texture, color, and fragrance. While the rockery may be an important part of Chinese gardens, the plants used in the garden have other functions as well.
Another element in a Chinese garden is the Zhai, or studio. This small yard is used for self-cultivation. The atmosphere is quiet, elegant, and conducive to learning. The walls are often decorated with figures to add to the landscape. Typical features of a Chinese garden include the four directions pavilion, a rock garden, and a lotus pond. The Zhai is often built next to a water garden, so that the view is uninterrupted by the structures on either side.
While there are no specific rules to follow when building a Chinese garden, the Chinese do share a common design element. Borrowed scenery refers to elements of a garden that exist outside of the garden walls. The borrowed scenery is often an unexpected addition that most visitors don’t even consider looking at. But these elements of a Chinese garden are often intentional and often represent the artist’s intent. And as the Chinese know, nature is the best source of inspiration.