Garden Design




The movement of wealthy families of elite status to the Jiangnan region, which began during the Song dynasty and continued into the Ming, had an impact on the popularity of private gardens. Jiangnan was an area where things grew easily, aided by mild winters with plenty of rainfall. As these wealthy families shifted to urban areas, they established urban estates as their primary residences. Members of the literati and merchant classes who had the means and ambition to do so created intimate urban gardens within their household compounds as microcosmic replicas of nature. The gardens of Yangzhou and Suzhou in particular became famous. Tradesmen in turn responded to the demand, and these cities became centers for garden design, construction, and the distribution of the basic materials required to build a garden, such as flowering plants and shrubs and garden rocks.  

Building a garden gave a person the opportunity to demonstrate his knowledge and cultivated taste. Even the most experienced and talented carpenter was not presumed to understand the philosophical principles needed to create a coherent design. 

The designer, ideally the patron himself, had to master such diverse fields as siting (fengshui), architecture, water management, botany, and landscape design, as well as be familiar with the poetic and painted gardens and parks of the past.

Move on to information about fengshui if you have not already viewed it.  [In the teachers' guide, in the Homes unit]

Twentieth century tile setters laying a garden path

SOURCE:  Ji Cheng, The Craft of Gardens, translated by Alison Hardie (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), pl. 93, p. 100.  Photograph of artisans laying paving tiles, Jiading, 1985 (Zhong Ming, photographer).

The four principle elements of a Chinese garden are:





Click on an image above to learn how that particular element was used in gardens.