Prototype of Ting Yuan and Yuanlin — Chinese Landscape Painting Theory

… Though man-made, [gardens] will look like something naturally created… like a painting…1

The Chinese garden—from buildings, to mountains and water, plants and trees—is a harmoniously syn­thesized work of art; it expresses the spirit of poetry and painting. Though man-made, the imitation of mountains and water must become real. Alas, just what is the proper correlation of mountains and water? In short, it should be modeled on nature. Not, however, by merely making scale-reduced scenes from nature, but rather by fully grasping the essen­tial aspects of natural scenery—which is the same principle that applies in painting.

… [T]rees are not planted to merely provide greenery, but are based on the spirit of painting, that is, they are to express the essence of nature.2

These are but s...


Ideology and Prototypes

Confucian Thought and Social Structure


he appearance of Confucius toward the end of the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B. c.) was the catalyst for the birth of a new culture. A class of Confucian- educated intellectuals became government officials, and with the political life of the nation in their hands a civil­ian-based feudal order unique to China developed.

During the Han dynasty, Confucianism became the offi­cially recognized state doctrine, and Confucian learning the country’s officially recognized form of scholarship, with which the idea of the Confucian state was firmly estab­lished. A social and political system based on Confucian ideology was to be the hallmark of the Chinese imperial state for the next two thousand years.

Confucianism and the Emperor

Confucian th...


Raising Mountains (Duo Shan) and Selecting Rocks (Xuan Shi)

The Chinese yuanlin is composed of some views designed to be appreciated from a seated position at chair height inside the buildings, and others designed to be viewed while walking. In the case of Japanese gardens, there was a gradual development from a static, frontal, unidirectional compo­sition in which the garden was viewed from a seated posi­tion inside an adjacent building, then first to viewing from two sides, and finally to sequential and even multifaceted compositions as people penetrated and walked through the garden. By way of contrast, the essence of the yuanlin centers on interdependent mutual and intersecting views between buildings, so that each element of the garden’s composition is multifaceted, multilayered, and kinetic.

The cities in which the greatest concentration ...


Screens (Ge) and Curves (Qu)

The Japanese stroll garden is a thematically-based series of small garden spaces centered around a pond. It is struc­tured in such a way that as the visitor walks through it, the scenery flows by, with scenes appearing and disappearing sequentially through the use of the compositional tech­nique known in Japanese as miegakure.

The Chinese yuanlin is also a stroll garden, in which the visitor enjoys different scenes and views while sauntering from the central huating to hall, tower, belvedere, and pavilion. Like the Japanese stroll garden, it is composed in the natural landscape-style.

However, as is indicated in the expression bu-yi jing-yi (“changing step, changing view”), qualitatively different scenes emerge one by one as the visitor walks, and thus dynamic, contrasting moods and vist...


Private Yuanlin: Compositional Techniques

Private yuanlin gardens were associated with, yet posi­tioned outside, and independent from urban dwellings. They were centered around the huating, which was used primarily for entertaining, and sought to create a “utopian” atmosphere of separateness from everyday life. From the techniques used to create private yuanlin arose a unique method of garden making which was a condensed, intri­cately detailed version of the most venerable Chinese gar­dening techniques. Yuan ye outlines five principle aspects of yuanlin garden making, which are presented here sup­plemented with original material gathered in the course of this research:

Situation (Xiang-Di)

As expressed in the term yin-di zhi-xuan (an exhortation to “follow the natural lay of the land”), the garden is planned around existin...


The Garden Treatise Yuan Ye

Garden design theory made great strides during the Ming and Qing periods, and the definitive treatise among the many works produced at this time on landscape garden­ing in the Chinese tradition—essential to any study of yuanlin—is Yuan ye (The Craft of Gardens), written by Ji Cheng in the late Ming dynasty.

Ji Cheng was a landscape designer from Jiangsu Province, and was renowned throughout that region for his consid­erable experience in garden planning, and also for his work as a poet and painter. His Yuan ye consists of a compre­
hensive guide in three volumes to garden-making tech­niques in the Jiangnan region, on the basis of which the reader can deduce the framework and essential points of yuanlin garden-making techniques...


Landscape-Style Gardens

Garden ownership reached its height during the Tang and Song dynasties. It was during this same period that schol­ars and painters appeared in great numbers, leading to the emergence of free-form landscape-style gardens that were supported by literature and landscape painting. The Song dynasty in particular has been called the golden age of the arts, including gardens.

A well-known literary work of the late Northern Song dynasty by Li Ge-fei, Luo-yang ming-yuanji (“The Famous Gardens of Louyang”) describes eighteen famous gardens of the time, citing the following as the ideals on which they were designed:

There are six attributes that do not combine in fine scenery: where magnificence is at work, the subtle and profound is lacking; where artificiality prevails, the patina of age is in...


An Outline of the History of Chinese Gardens

Chinese gardens have a long history, which can be rough­ly divided into two categories: the Imperial forbidden gar­dens, or Imperial yuanlin, and private residential pleasure gardens of scholars, government officials, regional gover­nors and merchants, or private yuanlin, which developed from the ting yuan.

Most Imperial yuanlin were royal pleasure parks linking the Imperial palace to detached palaces. They were some­times built around natural mountains and rivers with a cer­tain amount of remodeling, and at other times constructed completely from man-made excavations—but in either case they were splendid grounds, built on a vast scale. Private yuanlin were built within or on the outskirts of cities, near residences, and were intended exclusively for enjoyment.

The features of the r...


Garden-Related Terminology

The Chinese terms relating to gardens are defined in the glossary in Sugimura Yuzo’s Chugoku no niwa (Chinese gardens) as follows:

Yuan Fruit orchard Pu Vegetable garden

You Pen in which fowl and livestock are raised, or any fenced-in garden

Yuan (A different character, with the same pronuncia­tion as yuan above) This character came into frequent use for garden names during the Han dynasty (206 b. c.-a. d. 9), starting with the Qin-dynasty (221-206 B. c.) Shang-lin yuan. During the Zhou dynasty (1122-770 b. c.), the char­acters pu and you were used widely, but from the time of the Han dynasty these were no longer used in association with royal pleasure grounds. In later periods, both charac­ters for yuan were used.

Jin yuan (literally, “forbidden garden”) Used as a term for Imperial g...


Spatial Composition of the Unworldly

Spatial Composition of the UnworldlyПодпись: DwellingПодпись: GardenSpatial Composition of the Unworldly

Ting Yuan, Prototype of the Yuanlin

The hall and courtyard (ting) in Chinese dwellings form one unified, functional, everyday living space. In some homes there is also another important area associated with the residential complex, a ting yuan or yuanlin landscape garden, which is distinctly partitioned off from the hall/ courtyard portion of the dwelling.

The yuanlin is a small landscape park, which was enlarged and developed from the ting yuan, a contempla­tive landscape garden.

The ting yuan is composed of small buildings—a shu – fang (study), chafang (drawing room) or huating (banquet hall)—and gardens surrounded by a retaining wall; it abuts with the exterior wall surrounding the residential area, but differs totally in nature from the residential ting (courtyard) space (Figure 66)...