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A B S T R A C T This paper examines the design philosophy of classical Suzhou gardens in China, with regards to their natural and architectural elements on the moral education of the inhabitants. Through studying the metaphorical connotations of garden elements, the author reflects on their propositions for contemporary environmental ethics, aesthetic appreciation, and moral education. As such, the article is structured around three themes: classical Chinese gardens cultivating environmental ethics, classical Chinese gardens cultivating appreciation of aesthetics, and classical Chinese gardens cultivating moral characters. The essay finally suggests that classical Chinese gardens are landscapes for self-cultivation.

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Classical Chinese Gardens: Landscapes for Self-Cultivation Dr.DONIA ZHANG * Oxford Brookes University, UK E mail: donia.zhang@oxfordbrookes.net A B S T R A C T This paper examines the design philosophy of classical Suzhou gardens in China, with regards to their natural and architectural elements on the moral education of the inhabitants. Through studying the metaphorical connotations of garden elements, the author reflects on their propositions for contemporary environmental ethics, aesthetic appreciation, and moral education. As such, the article is structured around three themes: classical Chinese gardens cultivating environmental ethics, classical Chinese gardens cultivating appreciation of aesthetics, and classical Chinese gardens cultivating moral characters. The essay finally suggests that classical Chinese gardens are landscapes for self-cultivation. CONTEMPORARY URBAN AFFAIRS (2018) 2(1), 33-44. https://doi.org/10.25034/ijcua.2018.3654 www.ijcua.com Copyright © 2018Contemporary Urban Affairs. All rights reserved. 1. Introduction A garden is a form of art that is related to nature as well as culture. One aspect of their perpetual appeal to people is that in a garden, art and science, mind and nature, finally intersect. Many world philosophies or religions regard the planet earth as a garden. Christians believe that the “Garden of Eden” once existed in Mesopotamia of the Near East, and the “Hanging Garden” of Babylon has ever captivated humans’ creative imagination. Chinese people then believe that “There is Heaven above, there is Su-Hang below” (Su represents “Suzhou,” and Hang for “Hangzhou,” two historic Chinese cities with classical gardens). These sayings demonstrate humans’ cosmological awareness of the interconnection between gardens and the universe from an earlier time. Historically in China, mountains were viewed as connections between heaven and earth, and water as a reflection of the vast emptiness of the universe. As such, mountains and water are two fundamental elements in Chinese landscape architecture, as Confucius (551-479 BCE) contended: “The wise find pleasure in water; the virtuous find pleasure in hills.” Living close to mountains andwater was Chinese people’sideal since antiquity.However, a hermit lifestyle might not suit everyone. Thus, they created gardens with rocks and water within the confines of their private homes to be close to nature. Based on their functions, Chinese gardens fall into three categories: imperial, monastic, and residential. This paper focuses on Suzhou’s residential gardens because, of all Chinese cities, Suzhou has the largest number of private gardens, the most beautiful in style (figure 1), and the highest in artistic and construction quality (Keswick, 2003; Shao, 2005; Yuan and Gong, 2004). A Suzhou garden had always been an integral part of a house, and the Chinese concept of a home is explicitly expressed in the terms yuanzhai, meaning “courtyard/garden-house,” or jiating, denoting “home-courtyard/garden” (Wang, 2005; Yu, 2007). Suzhou had about 270 private gardens of various sizes in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), over 60 are preserved, 19 open to the public today, and nine are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Figure 1. Suzhou Lingering Garden (Liu Yuan). Photo by the author 2007 2. Classical Chinese Gardens Cultivating Environmental Ethics In his essay “The Philosophy of Wilderness,” Shane Steinkamp argued that “To protect the nature that is all around us, we must think long and hard about the nature we carry inside our heads” (n.d.). He means that humans must uphold a correct attitude towards nature in order to protect the natural environment, which would require a cultivation of our minds. A Chinese garden is a cosmic diagram revealing a profound view of the world; it is nature in a nutshell that enables one to feel the charm of nature, such as mountains, forest, and springs, without going out of the bustling city. When designing a Chinese garden, Feng Shui had often been applied. Feng Shui, literally means “wind and water,” is Chinese cosmology for determining whether the potential site would bring health, wealth, or misfortune to the occupants. Dating back some 5,000 years ago, Feng Shui can be found in classics such as Shijing (Book of Odes), Shujing (Book of History), Huangdi Zhai Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Canon on Houses), and other fragmentary texts in the Western Zhou period (1066-771 BCE).

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Classical Chinese Gardens: Landscapes for Self-Cultivation Dr.DONIA ZHANG * Oxford Brookes University, UK E mail: donia.zhang@oxfordbrookes.net A B S T R A C T This paper examines the design philosophy of classical Suzhou gardens in China, with regards to their natural and architectural elements on the moral education of the inhabitants. Through studying the metaphorical connotations of garden elements, the author reflects on their propositions for contemporary environmental ethics, aesthetic appreciation, and moral education. As such, the article is structured around three themes: classical Chinese gardens cultivating environmental ethics, classical Chinese gardens cultivating appreciation of aesthetics, and classical Chinese gardens cultivating moral characters. The essay finally suggests that classical Chinese gardens are landscapes for self-cultivation. CONTEMPORARY URBAN AFFAIRS (2018) 2(1), 33-44. https://doi.org/10.25034/ijcua.2018.3654 www.ijcua.com Copyright © 2018Contemporary Urban Affairs. All rights reserved. 1. Introduction A garden is a form of art that is related to nature as well as culture. One aspect of their perpetual appeal to people is that in a garden, art and science, mind and nature, finally intersect. Many world philosophies or religions regard the planet earth as a garden. Christians believe that the “Garden of Eden” once existed in Mesopotamia of the Near East, and the “Hanging Garden” of Babylon has ever captivated humans’ creative imagination. Chinese people then believe that “There is Heaven above, there is Su-Hang below” (Su represents “Suzhou,” and Hang for “Hangzhou,” two historic Chinese cities with classical gardens). These sayings demonstrate humans’ cosmological awareness of the interconnection between gardens and the universe from an earlier time. Historically in China, mountains were viewed as connections between heaven and earth, and water as a reflection of the vast emptiness of the universe. As such, mountains and water are two fundamental elements in Chinese landscape architecture, as Confucius (551-479 BCE) contended: “The wise find pleasure in water; the virtuous find pleasure in hills.” Living close to mountains andwater was Chinese people’sideal since antiquity.However, a hermit lifestyle might not suit everyone. Thus, they created gardens with rocks and water within the confines of their private homes to be close to nature. Based on their functions, Chinese gardens fall into three categories: imperial, monastic, and residential. This paper focuses on Suzhou’s residential gardens because, of all Chinese cities, Suzhou has the largest number of private gardens, the most beautiful in style (figure 1), and the highest in artistic and construction quality (Keswick, 2003; Shao, 2005; Yuan and Gong, 2004). A Suzhou garden had always been an integral part of a house, and the Chinese concept of a home is explicitly expressed in the terms yuanzhai, meaning “courtyard/garden-house,” or jiating, denoting “home-courtyard/garden” (Wang, 2005; Yu, 2007). Suzhou had about 270 private gardens of various sizes in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), over 60 are preserved, 19 open to the public today, and nine are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Figure 1. Suzhou Lingering Garden (Liu Yuan). Photo by the author 2007 2. Classical Chinese Gardens Cultivating Environmental Ethics In his essay “The Philosophy of Wilderness,” Shane Steinkamp argued that “To protect the nature that is all around us, we must think long and hard about the nature we carry inside our heads” (n.d.). He means that humans must uphold a correct attitude towards nature in order to protect the natural environment, which would require a cultivation of our minds. A Chinese garden is a cosmic diagram revealing a profound view of the world; it is nature in a nutshell that enables one to feel the charm of nature, such as mountains, forest, and springs, without going out of the bustling city. When designing a Chinese garden, Feng Shui had often been applied. Feng Shui, literally means “wind and water,” is Chinese cosmology for determining whether the potential site would bring health, wealth, or misfortune to the occupants. Dating back some 5,000 years ago, Feng Shui can be found in classics such as Shijing (Book of Odes), Shujing (Book of History), Huangdi Zhai Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Canon on Houses), and other fragmentary texts in the Western Zhou period (1066-771 BCE).

Journal of Contemporary Urban Affairs
Girne American University

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This page is a summary of: Classical Chinese Gardens: Landscapes for Self-Cultivation, Journal of Contemporary Urban Affairs, August 2017, Journal of Contemporary Urban Affairs (JCUA), DOI: 10.25034/ijcua.2018.3654.
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