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The Garden of Gardens

20 September 2007

The Garden of Perfect Clarity - the Garden of Gardens

One of the greatest attributes of Chinese classic garden design, which sets itself apart from the garden design theories and practices of all others, is its strong emphasis on space themes. Different from those that just play around with forms and colours and other visual appealing elements, Chinese subject gardens create a built environment that revibrates the essence of Nature, and reflects the spirits of Man, which not only gives space its depth but soul.

When designing a typical Chinese garden, the very first step to follow is of so-called 立意为先 (theme first), which is much like when composing a poem, planning a painting. What truly counts here is not of words and punctuation, or of lines and colours, or of structures and spaces, but intangible ideas and feelings that are articulated through or inspired by tangible objects.

However, unlike much more metaphysical expressions of writing or painting, a Chinese spatial theme is not only determined by abstract and subjective human conceptions and personal experiences, but solid and objective concerns and factors too, in particular the physical traits of the specific environment, financial aspects, technology conditions and material availabilities.

One of the very unique features in the Chinese subject garden practice is that the components which help shape the theme of a visual scene go beyond the physical forms, as the lintels over the gates, the couplets on the walls are all quintessential parts of a spatial theme. Without prose, a subject garden would be considered short of cultural dimensions thus lingering at a shallow and superficial level.

One of over a hundred theme gardens in the Garden of the Gardens

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