Fine Arts | Refuge, Stage Set, Real Estate: Chinese Gardens in Images and Texts
A662 | 2236 | --


Problems in Chinese Painting

On the private garden in China,  both as a built environment and as a
subject of painting and writing.

The Chinese have long believed   that nature is good for you; so
people of means who lived in urban areas made parcels of nature for
themselves. A garden was thought of as a haven, a place of retreat where
one could be oneself, finding one's own nature in natural surroundings--a
space for artistic and spiritual pursuits. It was also a work of art: a
design project expressing the owner's character, vision of the world, and
knowledge of the humanistic tradition. Finally, it was property, a thing
of value that might represent considerable  wealth in land, produce, and
labor-- that  might,  in other words, embody status and power despite its
would-be unworldliness. As the setting par excellence for private life,
gardens also came to be identified with sentiments of political alienation
and resistance.

Chinese garden culture is studied  through a few surviving gardens
and an abundance of garden paintings. Literary sources (descriptions,
poetry, historical anecdotes) also tell us much about famous gardens and
the people and events connected with them: social gatherings, private
epiphanies, artistic and intellectual breakthroughs. Along with these
materials, we'll review recent scholarship on the history, aesthetics, and
economics  of Chinese gardens. Students also prepare research projects to be presented
in class and also handed in.

Previous coursework in Chinese art is not a necessity.