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Chinese gardens - the floors

Well, they aren't grass. One of the several reasons Chinese gardens can seem so alien is that there is very little of the greensward that serves as the 'floor' of most of our landscapes. In Suzhou, it is only the Humble Administrator's Garden, the largest of those open to the public, that has any expanse of lawn, and that is perhaps why it is also the one that feels most familiar, most comprehensible, to at least this westerner.

I don't think it's that the Chinese don't like the lawn, and certainly a grass floor fits well with their conceptions of the natural landscape; it's simply that rocks are far more important. And in a small garden, where there is not perhaps room for both, rocks definitely win the day.

Within a single garden, there may be twenty or so different arrangements of small rocks and pebbles and roof tiles set on edge, mortared into place in decorative patterns. They are more than paths, though they are used as such--spreading out across courtyards and walkways alike to add a subtly changing carpet-like quality to the spaces.

These garden floors are one of my 'take-home' ideas from China.
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Nancy J. Bond said...

Some of those floors and pathways look like mosaics of precious stones -- they're stunningly beautiful!

Jane Marie said...

I sometimes think we would do well to give up our grass. Less watering, mowing, fertilizer, etc. But I truly love the green around the garden. This is very beautiful though, and I can appreciate the lines and artistic value.

Sheila said...

They are lovely and certainly add a lot of character to the garden.

Les, Zone 8a said...

When you have limited space why would you want to put something in as mundane as a lawn, especially when something like this can be done. They look like carpets woven from stone.

Weeping Sore said...

One reason Chinese garden floors are paved with raised pebble patterns is that in the heat of summer, the gardener would splash buckets of water on the floor. The water would sink to the level beneath the raised pebbles and cool the garden through evaporation, while the raised pebbles made it possible to stroll around without getting your shoes wet.

Steve said...

Another reason the pathways are composed of upraised pebbles is to provide a sensation of a "massage" for the feet when crossed. Tickling is a good thing!

I love your blog, Arcady. I worked on the Chinese Garden in Portland and am currently blogging about that entire process, from the point of view of we who actually built it. It was designed by your Suzhou people - at least the current edition of them. Check it out.

Once again, you have something super nice here. Love it.

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