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Wang Tingna's Gardens of the Hall Encircled by Jade

I have been searching, without success, for an online version of the Chinese garden classic, 'Yuan Ye' to share with you. Completed by Ji Cheng in 1634, it is the earliest, and still one of the most important, treatises on Chinese garden design, offering practical counsel on the layout of the landscape, the construction of garden buildings and rockeries, pebbled walkways and gates.

Some images from Yuan Ye are available, but as thumbnails only, at the University of Pennsylvania, and the entire volume can be purchased in a 1988 English translation by Alison Hardie that has now become quite expensive.

But perhaps a better parting gift, as we leave for now the Orient and return to the Occident, is a stroll through the garden of Wang Tingna.

The c. 1600 scroll depicting his garden, which was nearby to Suzhou, is the longest continuous printed illustration ever produced. It is designed not to be viewed all at once, but to be slowly savored as each turn of the scroll reveals a new scene. The online view available from Dumbarton Oaks is digitally scrollable, allowing for the same sort of experience.

The garden itself vanished some time in the 1800s and even the images available to us now are only a shadow of the original artwork, which was destroyed as late as the 1960s in the mass paranoia that was the Cultural Revolution. Fortunately, metal plates of its images had already been made.

"Wang built a mansion, with an abundance of jeweled terraces and elaborate galleries, exotic flowers and famous rocks. He also dug a lake of more than a hundred acres to surround the hall, which local people called His Honor's lake. Wang would stroll about in the garden, drinking wine and composing poems. "

Note the scene of Wang and his companions gathered round a curious sort of table:A similar carved rivulet in Prince Gong's garden in Beijing, set into the floor of a pavilion, has been preserved.

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Benjamin Vogt said...

Floating wine and racing to compose lines / poem against other poets / painters / gardeners right? I have to put one of these in my garden for my fellow writers--what parties we could have!

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

I just can't tell how interesting and beautiful I find your series of writings about Chinese gardens. Both knowledgeable and estetic. I'm waiting for more eagerly.

five oclock said...

I was not aware of the use of such carved waterways, scaled down for domestic use. These mini rivers for poetry competitions are certainly part of the scholarly paraphanelia so desirable in the 17th century. In your research have you come across any dates for when this kind of recreation in miniature of the large-scale, outdoor experience occurred?
You have a wonderful and very unique blog, with excellent information on Chinese garden history. Will you be posting about Korean gardens at all? I have found this to be a less-researched subject that merits much more exposure.

zoe said...

beautiful post! what discoveries i make here!

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