A Journey into the Chinese Garden

An exhibition at the Yale School of Architecture

2006

 

The travel was undertaken in the summer of 2005 supported by the George Nelson Traveling Fellowship

 

The Chinese garden is “a four-dimensional time-space presentation. Beholders gradually become aware of these dimensions while moving in sequential spaces, following planned touring routes, over a period of time. This cumulative visual presentation leads to a dramatic effect on the viewer through mobile viewing, which cannot be compared to ordinary static viewing experience.” (175, Ya-Sing Tsu)

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The Chinese garden is “a four-dimensional time-space presentation. Beholders gradually become aware of these dimensions while moving in sequential spaces, following planned touring routes, over a period of time. This cumulative visual presentation leads to a dramatic effect on the viewer through mobile viewing, which cannot be compared to ordinary static viewing experience.” (175, Ya-Sing Tsu)

 

My interest in Chinese Gardens came about indirectly from an interest in English picturesque gardens and Japanese strolling gardens. A common trait shared by these gardens is a choreographing of movement through space and time- a feature that has long characterized the Chinese Garden. Realizing that both the English and Japanese Garden were influenced and inspired by the Chinese Garden, I felt compelled to delve deeper into the Chinese Garden and experience for myself the source. While in China, I focused specifically on the relationship between interior architectural space and exterior landscape as experienced by a visitor to the gardens.

 

There are three main types of Chinese gardens: private gardens of the nobility in the south of China, temple gardens, often high in the mountains and inhabited by monks, and imperial gardens of the emperors in the north of China. The private gardens of the south, with a concentration in Suzhou, are first experienced as disorienting and expansive despite their small area. Windows peer into adjacent spaces that cannot be reached directly, movement is non-linear, and a layering of indoor and outdoor spaces seamlessly integrate the interior architectural space and the exterior garden space. As part of my research of temple gardens, I visited the four sacred Buddhist mountains of the north, south, east and west. In all cases, temple complexes are scattered over the mountains, connected to each other by pathways and thousands of stone steps. The temple complexes are built in such a way that the courtyards, gardens, and temples integrate indoor and outdoor spaces, and orient to the views and topography of the site allowing their layout to break free of more traditional axial temple planning. The imperial gardens in the north are on the scale of royal gardens and public parks. Due to their sheer size, the imperial gardens often incorporate aspects of both private gardens, temple gardens, and more formal axial planning with spatial hierarchies.

 

For this exhibition, I have installed windows that offer views into eight gardens: four private gardens in the south, two sacred Buddhist mountains and two imperial gardens. I invite you to partake in an experience of the Chinese Garden.