CHINESE GARDENS

Chinese garden art is especially characteristic of its intimate relation to painting. It was in very large part the great painters who created the typical gardens in China, and in this they were inspired by ideas similar to those which found expression in their painting. The gardens may with almost as good reason as the landscape paintings be referred to as shan shui (mountains and water), for also in these compositions of living material " mountains " and water are the most essential elements. To these are then added trees and flowers, the manifold elements of decorative garden architecture and, since the compositions are developed in the horizontal plane, meandering paths and enclosing walls, bridges and balustrades.

The Chinese garden can never, in the same way as the formal parterre garden, be completely surveyed from a certain point. It consists of more or less isolated sections, which though they succeed one another as parts of a homogeneous composition, nevertheless must be discovered gradually and enjoyed as the beholder continues his stroll: he must follow the sinuous paths as they take him past mountains and lakes, wander through tunnels or winding galleries, linger for a while to ponder the water which glows under worn stone bridges, to reach finally, perhaps, on steps of unhewn stone a pavilion on a height from which a fascinating view unfolds between the trees. He is led on by ever new impressions, further and further into a composition that is never completely revealed, and which for this reason retains something of the secret charm and allurement of the unknown.One must not, of course, press the comparison between the landscape paintings and the garden compositions too hard, for it is a matter of two different art forms, in which the respective mediums of expression differ widely.

A Chinese garden without buildings to divide, sur- round and complete it, is simply inconceivable. It is around these or between them that the various sections are arranged ; it is from the pavilions, the verandas and the galleries that the choicest views are to be enjoyed. Some pavilions were intended for the contemplation of the first spring flowers ; others, perhaps rising from the middle of a pond, for the enjoyment of the lotus in summer; in others, again, one might delight in the chrysanthemums in autumn, or admire the shadow-play of the bamboos on a white wall on a clear moonlit evening. These pavilions and verandas offered relative isolation and protection, while at the same time giving one the feeling of being out in the open air, in a fanciful landscape to which the tittering of the birds and the chirping of the cicadas sometimes also gave a voice.
In the Chinese treatise of gardening, YUan Yeh, published by an amateur called Chi Ch'eng in 1634) it is pointed out that in a well-situated and planned garden one may live as a hermit even in the middle of the town. It should lie in a quiet corner of the town, says the treatise, so that all noise is excluded when the gate is closed. " A single ' mountain ' may give rise to many effects, a small stone may evoke many feelings. The shadow from the dry leaves of the banana-tree is beauti- fully outlined on the paper of the window. The roots of the pine force their way through the crevices of the hollow stones. . . . If one can find stillness in the midst of the city turmoil, why should one then forego such an easily accessible spot and seek a more distant one ? " This last reflection is certainly characteristic of these Chinese scholars and philosophers, who tried to create a substitute for real landscape also at their town dwellings.
In a chinese garden one might see, for example, a whole court planted with white peonies, partly surrounded by trellises for creepers and open galleries from which the plantation might be enjoyed. In other courts the vegetation consists of trees and shrubs, which are dispersed between the pavilions and the hillocks. In Yuan Yeh we read that " the white peonies should be enclosed, but the red roses need no support; they can lean against the stones. . . ." In the same description there is mention also of a couple of

pavilions intended for the " retention (enjoyment) of the spring ", and others offering protection against the summer heat. And the charms of the spot are indicated with the following words : " The moon is concealed, but peeps between the plum-trees and the bamboos around the house; here is created an atmosphere that evokes deep feelings ".The gardens best corresponding to the Chinese feeling for Nature were those attached to the study-pavilions in the mountains. The poets and the artists loved to establish such retreats for themselves, and to reproduce them in their paintings.

For the creation of movement and variety in the plan,of great importance were of course the paths and waterways, while the mountains, the buildings and the plantations signified more for the modelling and the play of light and shade. As far as we are now able to judge, the paths in the Chinese gardens seem in their design to have been dominated by an irregularly winding and undulating system of lines, but not by the ornamental figures we find in the European imitations of the Chinese garden.

The plan of a garden outside Peking communicated by Krafft is characterized by an S-shaped waterway that is in several places divided into two arms (enclosing small islands with buildings) and also by paths that meander along with ingenious irregularity, both enclosing and travers- ing the plan in different directions. They do not describe any small curves, but wide bends that run together at various points, yet never directly cross or intersect one another. They are distinguished by a certain supple softness and endlessness. When one sees a plan like this one gets a rough idea of what the author of Yiian Yeh meant when he wrote that " the paths meander like playing cats ", a rather bold metaphor, which illustrates, however, the supple movement.

The idea of such a system of paths was probably to invite to walks that might be not only fascinating and bewildering, but also almost endless. But it should also be remem- bered that the grounds were modelled by the excavation of ponds and the building of mounds, which were thrown into relief with pavilions and rocks.Whatever one may think of paths like these, it must be admitted that their merit or raison d"etre scarcely consists in being direct lines of communication. One must above all things not be in a hurry when strolling in such a garden ; rather should it be regarded as a kind of enchanted pleasure-ground, from which one seeks a way out in vain. Where the paths do not describe winding bends they have as a rule been broken in angles or in a zig-zag pattern, as may be seen in Lin Ch'ing's drawing from the Yu Ch'unting garden in Hui-chou (Anhui). The path, paved with coarse shingle, leads in broken lines from the pavilion to the foot of the sloping ramp leading up to the town wall. The stone paving was in many cases ornamental, and laid according to patterns that were calculated to connect the paths with the ornaments adorning the buildings. The rhythms of the paths were often continued in the bridges, which either rise in high arches or describe zig- zag lines .

The latter was a common device par- ticularly for the long bridges by which pavilions stand- ing out in the water were connected with the shore. They were made either of wood or of stone. Other bridges form continuations of the long winding galleries or complements to the waterways, whether the latter have the form of streams and canals or of winding lakes.
Excerpts from Article by Osvald Siren.