Chinese Landscape Paintings

For hundreds of years Shanshuihua, or commonly referred to as landscape artwork have been a significant part of Chinese art. In parallel, historically they dominate the hierarchy of painting styles. For Chinese People, the term panorama encompasses two elements which mean ‘mountains and waters’ which is linked to Daoism and it focuses on peace with the natural world. Chinese artists do not occasionally paint actual or actual; places but emphasize on idealized landscapes. Mountains in China are related with religion since they head closer to heaven. As a result, the people hold expensive the thought that looking at a portray on mountains serves the soul some good. In general, Chinese paintings are considered extensions of calligraphy which uses of similar brushstrokes. The colors are usually subtle and restrained. For most of the part, paintings are created in ink on paper accompanied with little amounts of watercolor (Yuan, Xiaomei 15). These paintings, as opposed to contemporary drawings, lacks a frame but instead are mounted on silk having diverse formats such as hand scrolls, fan paintings, hanging scrolls and album leaves. This essay seeks to explore and analyze the narrations of garden designs by Ji Cheng- Crafts of the Garden as part of landscape architecture.

One conspicuous landscape architecture notable in the 17th century is the Crafts of Garden by Ji Cheng. The Yuan ye, commonly translated as Crafts of Garden was initially published in 1631 and constitute one of the oldest manuals in Chinese tradition governing landscape gardening. The Chinese narration is based on Ji Cheng’s experience and notes from his profession as a garden designer. The narrative is split into three volumes. Volume one entails the overall principles; building situations and fittings. Volume two focuses on illustrations and descriptions of decorative guardrails. Volume three focuses on windows, artificial mounds, doorways, decorative pavements and rock selection.

Culturally, in the Ming Dynasty, it was the duty of the master to survey the landscape, check angles, and calculate widths for the proper foundation of a garden design. While designing a garden, it is imperative that the master, skillfully trained through apprentice does three-quarters of the work while his craftsmen do the remaining bit. The narration offers insight to scenery borrowing, and Ji Cheng in his work promulgates that even though the interior of a garden might show disparity from the surrounding, a designer needs not worry as long as there is clear view. Whenever a scenery looks vulgar, he purports, it is okay block it, and if emits the radiance of beauty take advantage of it. The tactic, he calls the skill of fitting in with the land. For Ji Cheng, a secluded place forms the perfect site for designing a garden. Rich in poetic descriptions for design, the crafts of the garden speaks of pruning and trimming entangled undergrowth’s in one’s garden, paths need to be lined with features representing eternity and if a mountain torrent is present, then, by all means, calculate angelica and orchids together. Also, surrounding walls ought to be covered in creepers, and hanging rooftops should be ubiquitous so that anyone at a high point will embrace nothing but serene beauty (Ji Cheng 15). In situations, Ji Cheng explains that for building foundations, the direction the garden faces should not be of worry as the landscape is naturally inclined to its highs and lows. To articulate the garden further the designer should create something that arouses interest in the garden whether it is a pool or a garden beside wooded hills. Gardens often take different shapes and sizes; some linear, some rectangular and others make the curvy route. Depending on the length and curve of the garden, the gardener might decide to deploy a few tricks to accentuate the look. If the garden is long and square for instance, terraces pavilions are the perfect recipes for creating a beautiful garden. If old trees compete for the walls and roof, a designer can cut a few branches or constructively, he/she can produce soaring pillars and curved beams although these take a longer time to grow and form the needed shave like bamboos. Among all sites, nothing represents beauty as a garden in towers, steep slopes, deep gullies and the flat lower hill terrain hosting its natural companions without the interference of humanity.

For rock selection a designer needs to seek far and near the mountain. With no payment to the mountains, one may collect rocks as they get transported by water, or they can be carried on shoulder poles. It is during this rock scrutiny that a designer needs to search for massive stones with the potency of piling on top of each other without breaking. Rocks bearing cracks indicate future breaking and should be avoided however if they display a concave appearance they can aptly suit in making overhanging cliffs. The creation may depict some clumsiness, but after a meticulous arrangement, the aura of beauty it sends to any visual creature is breathtaking. Furthermore, the rocks can be found anywhere along the amount. It is for the same reason that stones are different from plants. After collection, rocks enter a new phase in life, unlike plants. Rocks from the great lake in Xiaoxia bay are firm, glossy and have grooves. They bear different colors of white and grey and have a value attached to their size and height. The rocks from Kunshan emanate from red soil and assume a knobble shape. They are blended with small trees to spray out their aesthetic appearance. Another group of stones for decoration are those from Yixin and are transported by water. Characterized by eyeholes they make poor overhanging cliffs in due to weakness. Stones from the dragon pool are grey hard and sometimes bearing cracks. They may exhibit markings and are excellent in painting if arranged together like brushwork.

Jie Jing (the last title), in Crafts of the Gardens and explores on borrowing scenery. The narration at this point debunks the idea that borrowing scenery is a single design idea, and instead, it deals with the importance of landscape design philosophy holistically. The constant dynamic appearance of landscape serves as the agent for garden making. It is through the concerted effort of the object (landscape) and the subject (garden maker) that gardens are made, and the two entities are interchangeable. To make a garden, as a rule of the thumb, the garden maker needs to blend with the existing landscape as natural features become mnemonics for common knowledge as widely expressed in linguistic and poetic literature. It is nature’s plan; man included that new designs emerge (Xiao & Xue 218)


Crafts of the Garden by Ji Cheng, although primarily focusing natural features, is mostly architectural oriented. Contrasts have been made between this piece of art and other typical works of garden design in East Asia such as Sakuteiki of Japan which emphasizes rocks and water. Also, the Edo period in Japan saw works such as Sagaryuniwa Kohohiden no Koto andTsukiyama Sansuiden which suggests a vital difference between Japanese and Chinese garden design- namely natural and architectural features respectively (Ling 16). However, in the face of a more radical understanding of the latter, the conclusive (chapter ten) of this narration paints a clear picture that natural features are in fact the principal theme of Crafts of the Garden.

Works Cited

Ji, Cheng. “The Craft of Gardens. Translated by A. Hardie.” (1988) 15-28

Ling, Q. I. “Thinking about Development Direction of Chinese Landscape Architecture through Reading Yuan Ye (The Crafts of Garden) to Yuan Yan (The Extension of Garden).” Chinese Landscape Architecture 5 (2013): 016.

Xiao, J., & Xue, C. Q. (2015). Architecture in Ji Cheng’s The Craft of Gardens: a visual study of the role of representation in counteracting the influence of the pictorial idea in Chinese scholar gardens of the Ming period. Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes, 35(3), 218-234.

Yuan, Xiaomei. “How to Conduct Natural Sounds with Planting Design in Chinese Classical Garden.” INTER-NOISE and NOISE-CON Congress and Conference Proceedings. Vol. 253.55 No. 2. Institute of Noise Control Engineering, 2016.

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