By Craig Clunas
Gardens are websites that may be at one and a similar time well-known artistic endeavors and useful items of genuine property. because the first account in English to be totally in line with modern chinese language resources, this cutting edge, superbly illustrated publication grounds the practices of garden-making in Ming Dynasty China (1368-1644) firmly within the social and cultural historical past of the day. Who owned gardens? Who visited them? How have been they represented in phrases, in work, and in visible tradition as a rule, and what meanings did those representations carry at diverse degrees of chinese language society? How did the discourse of gardens intersect with different discourses akin to these of aesthetics, agronomy, geomancy, and botany? by means of analyzing the gardens of town of Suzhou from a couple of varied angles, Craig Clunas offers a wealthy photograph of a posh cultural phenomenon, person who was once of the most important significance to the self-fashioning of the Ming elite. Drawing on a variety of fresh paintings in cultural thought, the writer offers for the 1st time a old and materialist account of chinese language backyard tradition, and replaces vast generalizations and orientalist myth with a powerful photo of the garden's position in social existence.
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Additional resources for Fruitful Sites: Garden Culture in Ming Dynasty China
It is even worth speculating at this point whether the contemporary association of Suzhou with gardens was in some way due to the existence within the walls of large quantities of unused or under-used land, the result of a shrinkage of the urban population. In this respect Suzhou around 1500 resembled contemporary Rome, where there were large amounts of productive horticultural space within the walls. 73 In laying so much stress on the productive potential of the garden landscape, I may be overstating the case, as a way of correcting an equally imbalanced concentration on aesthetics in the study of Chinese garden practices.
The opposite of zhuo in the standard classical dictionaries was qiao - 'skilful', 'intricate', 'tricksy', a word with very dubious moral overtones. 8 2 A Qiao zheng yuan ('Garden of the Cunning Politician') would have clearly been an anathema. The phrase shou zhuo, 'preserving one's artlessness', was forever associated in the educated mind with the figure of Tao Yuanming (365-427 ), the archetype of the man of noble mind who abandons office for a life of self-sufficiency and reclusion. One of the pavilions in the Wu family's Eastern Estate, established some fifty years before Wang Xianchen built his garden, is named Zhuo xiu, 'Artless Cultivation' (in the Confucian sense of cultivation of the self, not of the soil).
In this tentative chronology, the revitalization of the imperial gardens in Peking acted as an inspiration to a relatively small but very prestigious group of the Suzhou elite, whose activities as garden creators, picturers and describers were then imitated more widely in the immediate Jiangnan area, and then through the wider empire as the sixteenth century went on. 3 A Directorate of the Imperial Forest Park (Shang lin yuan jian) was set up by the first Ming emperor at some unspecified point in the Hongwu era (1368-98), but abolished in the same reign on the grounds that it had harmed the people's property (or livelihood, fang min ye).