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Chinese Garden Elements - Rock

 

HIGHLIGHTS:
  • The stone loving of the Chinese stems from the magical views of the Chinese five holly mountains, which seems to have played an important role in the Taoist anchoretism
  • In Chinese gardens, a stone was valued for its bumps, furrows and hollows, and for the color and texture of its surface.
  • In Chinese gardens, artificial mountains are also function as space-dividing structural components.

Chinese Garden Elements - Rock [an error occurred while processing this directive] European visitors are often overwhelmed by the heavy rocks they find in the Chinese garden. The appreciation of the strange rocks, which was thought as aesthetic activity as much as a religion one, was elevated to connoisseurship, and was practiced by cultivated gentlemen in ancient China. Chinese scholars collected the stones in much the same way as the Europeans collected their antiques. In a famous story, the famous painter, Mei Fu (1051 – 1107) elected a certain rock in his garden as his “elder brother”, visited it everyday, greeted it and even bowed down to it.

The first reason for the stone loving of the Chinese stems from the magical views of the Chinese five holly mountains, which seems to have played an important role in the Taoist anchoretism. Rocks in the Chinese garden called to the minds of the visitors the beauty of these mountains. It is worth mentioning that not only were the scenes of these mountains evoked in Chinese garden settings, but many of which had also been enormous “garden” themselves. Entire mountain was landscaped with Taoist or Buddhists, Temples, pavilions, bridges, etc.

In Chinese gardens, a stone was valued for its bumps, furrows and hollows, and for the color and texture of its surface. The rock was much more appreciated for its grotesque shape than for its resemblance to a particular mountain. The surging convolutions, twists and gullies of the rocks remind one of the forces of the nature, and hint to the meaning of the Tao. Climbing over or through these rocks or pondering around their suggestive shapes, one could easily imagine being perched in the mountain wilderness, confronting the forces of the nature, and being a Taoist without leaving his house.

Chinese Garden Elements - Rock

If the rocks are large enough, they will be used to pile up the rock hills, the artificial mountains, or to build the rocky shores of the lakes and watercourses. If the shapes of the rocks are unusual enough, they will be celebrated and selected as the single standing rocks. For those of the small size, they will be incorporated with the dwarf trees to make the bonsai, the tray gardens, known in Chinese as: P’en Ching.

Artificial mountains are the essential scenic features in the private Chinese gardens and also function as space-dividing structural components. For this reason, building proper artificial mountains was regarded as the crux of making a successful garden. A Chinese gardener builds his artificial mountain in much the same process as the modern sculptor does his artwork. However, the ways of the Chinese artificial makers looked more like the ways of the Xieyie sculptors, which tended to obtain the similarity of the spirit, than the ones of the realistic sculptors. Chinese gardeners build their artificial mountains not in front of their “models”, the mountain, but inside their gardens, after filtering the beauties of the individual images experienced outside remodeling them into the generalized statements. As a result, artificial mountains in the private Chinese garden is not replicas of individual mountains, but are rather visions of the beauty of the landscape that has already been abstracted and purified by those gardeners after several months, even years “wandering” and observation.

Chinese Garden Elements, Bonsai Chinese Bonsai, P’en Ching.

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