Fruitful Sites: Garden Culture in Ming Dynasty China by Craig Clunas

By Craig Clunas

Gardens are websites that may be at one and an identical time trendy artistic endeavors and necessary items of genuine property. because the first account in English to be absolutely in accordance with modern chinese language assets, this cutting edge, fantastically illustrated booklet grounds the practices of garden-making in Ming Dynasty China (1368-1644) firmly within the social and cultural background of the day. Who owned gardens? Who visited them? How have been they represented in phrases, in work, and in visible tradition regularly, and what meanings did those representations carry at assorted degrees of chinese language society? How did the discourse of gardens intersect with different discourses comparable to these of aesthetics, agronomy, geomancy, and botany? by means of interpreting the gardens of the town of Suzhou from a few diverse angles, Craig Clunas presents a wealthy photograph of a posh cultural phenomenon, one who used to be of the most important significance to the self-fashioning of the Ming elite. Drawing on quite a lot of fresh paintings in cultural idea, the writer offers for the 1st time a old and materialist account of chinese language backyard tradition, and replaces extensive generalizations and orientalist fable with a powerful photograph of the garden's function in social existence.

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33 8 Wen Zhengming, Xiang Bamboo Bank (Xiang yun wu). 34 9 Wen Zhengming, Scholar-tree Rain Pavilion (Huai yu ting). 35 10, 11 Wen Zhengming, Arriving Birds Park (Lai qin you), with accompanying inscription. '- I 37 I would argue that the decay and flourishing of a garden is allied to that of its owner. e. the garden] decays it will rise again. If the person is not commemorated, then even though it flourishes it will eventually decay. The literary productions of brush and ink are more lasting than are gardens, since the former cannot decay away.

For example, the placing of islands in the middle of ponds will encourage the fish to exercise, causing them to grow. 66 While we cannot be sure, there is certainly an implication that the pond in the Garden of the Unsuccessful Politician contained fish. The tenth painting and poem in the Wen Zhengming sequence together cover 'The Angling Rock' (illus. 3), and while the former shows an individual desultorily dangling a rod in the water, the poem proclaims that 'You must know that the one who now casts the line/Is not a true lover of fishing'.

45 By and large they were not famous as writers or painters, or as actors on the political scene. Although Qian pays obeisance to the idea of the famous owner, in this particular instance it is in fact the much more famous figure of Wen Zhengrning who creates the garden anew for him. The garden now exists as an adjunct to the works of art that surrounded its early existencei to a degree it is they that produce the garden, not the other way around. This is done so with particular potency in that the person doing the recording and depicting is Wen Zhengming, by Qian Yong's day in the Qing period the unassailable epitome of the scholar-amateur ideal.

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