An Asian View

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Abstraction Inspired by landscapes

In pre-20th century China, gardens were designed as an abstract art inspired by natural landscapes, particularly mountain and water scenery. The garden scape was organized for specific uses and designed outdoor spaces infused every aspect of life. Different types of space were made for different user groups such as Imperial Gardens, Temple Gardens, Scholar Gardens, as well as Natural Scenic Parks.

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 West Lake / 西湖

West Lake a natural freshwater lake in Hangzhou in eastern China, has inspired poets and painters for centuries throughout chinese history for its natural beauty and historic relics, it has also been among the most important sources of inspiration for chinese garden designers

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The Philosophy of Chinese Garden Design

Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, are significant aspects of classical Chinese philosophy and together influenced the creation of the Chinese Garden. Of the three, Taoism had the greatest influence.

Taoist thought generally focuses on nature and on relationships between humanity and the cosmos, in order to establish harmony between man and nature. Most gardens had irregular geometrical layouts coming from the image of natural mountains, rivers and lakes.

Confucius provided an orderly structure for social relationships and this influenced the orderly design of cities. Classical Chinese city planning conformed strictly to the principles of Confucianism. Two garden types, the Temple garden and the Cemetery garden, often had regular geometrical layout influenced by the Confucius.


Buddhism influenced the poetic imagery of chinese gardens with poetic ideas coming from the human mind. A stone could symbolize a mountain, making conception make the Chinese garden an abstract art form.

According to the landscape historian and architect Che Bing Chiu,

“Every garden was a quest for paradise, of a lost world, of a utopian universe.”

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of one hundred years, teach the people.

– Confucius

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