Irregularity, Grottoes, and Plants: Recontextualizing the Chinese Elements in the English Landscape Gardens




Shen, Yu

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n the first half of the eighteenth century, England experienced a drastic change in its horticultural ideas and design. As the translation of Confucianism, Chinese art, and engravings of Chinese gardens gradually travelled to England, writers and architects by then believed that “Chinese garden was a faithful reproduction of nature,” which provoked a trend of applying Chinese designs to English landscape gardens to represent nature closely. By further examining the specific Chinese elements: grottoes, plants, and the irregularity that had been applied to the English landscape gardens, this thesis argues that the specific elements which were “misread” and embedded the most representative “naturalness” adapted in the English gardens, were not installed for the close imitation or presentation of nature in their original context in China. Instead, through reviewing the Chinese context and journeying in the history and specific cases of Chinese gardens, we are able to see how the original intents pertinent to the three elements function as the suggestion of “the spirit peculiar to the manifold creation of the external world.”


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