The Chinese style garden (中國園林 Zhōngguó yuánlín)

It is a landscape garden style which has evolved and matured over the last 3,000 years. Chinese gardens are inspired by inland landscapes, particularly lakes and mountains. Chinese gardens are created to recreate and miniaturise larger natural landscapes. Traditionally, Chinese gardens blend unique, ornate buildings with natural elements.

History

For the past 3,000 years many people in China have created classic Chinese gardens. Emperors, nobility, government officials, scholars and poets have built their own special gardens. During the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC) the original  and large Chinese gardens were built in the Yellow River valley. Emperors and noblemen hunted for animal and planted fruits and vegetables in their gardens. Throughout the following dynasties the Chinese garden style evolved and more in-depth information can be found here. Read more....

A Chinese garden with buildingDesign of Classic Chinese Gardens

Chinese gardens are not generally laid out in a way that you can see the whole garden all at once. Small scenes are created so that as you walk through the garden, you come across several intimate settings to enjoy. Every scene is Intricately planned and framed. The classic Chinese garden is enclosed by walls which are usually white in colour, and features one or more ponds, rockeries, trees, shrubs and flowers. The typical Oriental garden has stone or gravel winding paths and zig-zag galleries. For the larger garden it should contain architecture such as a building or pavilion.

The Chinese garden buildings are very elaborate, with much architectural decoration. Larger Chinese gardens are deliberately designed for visitors to walk through them in the particular order of the garden layout. The kinds of buildings featured in a Chinese garden are linked to whose garden it is. A scholar may have a library, others will have buildings connected hallways and pavilions with different views of the garden. Some gardens have temples, bridges, towers and galleries. The buildings and structures in a Chinese garden will complement the design and not dominate it. Mountains symbolise virtue and stability, plus represent the philosophy laid out by Confucius.

A rock gardenRock Gardens

All Chinese garden must have a rock element. Some choose a simple rock garden, while others construct miniature mountains from an assortment of rocks. Large classic Chinese gardens often have a huge faux mountain with a pavilion built on the top. Different rocks are chosen based on their shape, texture, color and type. Eroded limestone rocks with strange shapes are among the most prized rocks for Chinese gardeners. Miniature mountains are featured because they look good but also bcause they have symbolic meaning in Chinese culture.

 

Cherry blossomPlants, Flowers and Trees

Plants are chosen wisely, dependent on their shape, texture, color and fragrance. Some Chinese gardens feature a lotus pond along with lotus pavilion. Along with lush, tropical shrubs and trees Chinese gardens typically have fragrant flowers to enhance the atmosphere. Flowers and trees also add contrast to the strong architectural lines. Sound is another element of Chinese gardens and when rain drops onto the leaves of the lush vegetation, it creates a soothing sound. Don't overdo the number of plants you cultivate in your Chinese style garden and keep it more in line with the principles involving the elements. Japanese maples, cherry trees, camelias, peonies, hydrangeas and azaleas provide the floral bursts required, whilst the bamboos, grasses, leafy shrubs and hedges provide an Oriental canvas.

Evergreen and deciduous trees offer framework and all year round significance  and interest to the garden. Cherry blossoms in spring to striking red leaves of the Japanese maple in autumn add Oriental herbs and spices to the garden. To complete the whole picture, the flowers of all four seasons should be included. They are a group of flowers in Chinese culture and art which epitomise the four seasons. They typically consist of the orchid in spring, the lotus in summer, the chrysanthemum in autumn and the plum blossom in winter.

Bamboo is an essential for the Oriental garden. It is excellent for screening if you choose clump-forming bamboos like Golden bamboo or Henon bamboo. Contain the planting area with plastic or keep them contained in pots to avoid un-wanted spreading. Ornamental grasses help create the look and look great grown in and around gravel.

Low growing ground-cover is planted extensively in, around and over rocks, gravel and pathways, and also along the edges of borders. Pincushion moss (Leucobryum albidum) is ideal for shady spots or around rocks and the grass-like black leaves of Black mondo (Ophiopogon planiscapus) for added contrast against gravel and paving.

Topiary is commonplace in the Oriental garden. Shrubs are tightly clipped to create abstract representations of nature and cloud-like layers on a stand-alone plant such as juniper offers a more striking look. Softly trimmed mounds of osmanthus can resemble mountain ranges or waves,

Climbers can also be used in the Chinese garden. Add softness to a pergola or bridge by encouraging a trailing Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) to cover them. The autumn display of crimson leaves from a vine such as Crimson glory vine (Vitis coignetiae) will look amazing.

Goldfish pondWater Elements

In China water symbolises communication and dreams. A water element is also a beautiful complement to the rock garden and mountains. The most popular water element of a Chinese garden is a pond which is often located in the centre of the garden. The other elements of the garden are arranged around the pond. Ponds are often populted with goldfish and turtles.

The goldfish, a quirky, colorful breed of Asian carp has a long history of breeding and captivity. The creatively inclined Tang Dynasty (618-907) began to develop ornamental water gardens and they kept a gold variation of the silver Prussian carp, from which goldfish were bred and evolved. Goldfish symbolise wealth in Chinese culture. According to Feng Shui, a pond teeming with goldfish will help bring money. Today there are more than 120 varieties of goldfish, categorised by physical appearance and the colours they exhibit.

 

Broowed view through round hole in wallBorrowed Scenery

The words 'borrowed scenery' relates to the elements of a Chinese garden that actually lay outside the garden walls. These views are often unexpected because most people don’t look beyond the garden walls. The views are deliberate when there is an opportunity.  People love a great view. Unfortunately they’re not always easy to come by. That’s why, when designing a garden, this concept looks beyond the fixed borders of the space and if there is something great, the view is borrowed. The Chinese concept of integrating a distant landscape into a garden composition has been practiced for centuries. It can include anything interesting that is not physically located in the garden. The design of the garden naturally pulls the eye towards the 'borrowed view', taking advantage of surrounding scenery, or even a solitary tree or place of interest.

 

Feng Shui for your the garden

The Chinese along with millions of others across the world, believe in and live their lives by the natural forces of Feng Shui. It suggests ways to improve the environment and increase harmony using the five elements. Feng Shui enhances and attracts good health, wealth and relationships.

The 5 elementsTHE FIVE ELEMENTS CYCLE
The elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water and are the foundation for Feng Shui balance and play a very important role in creating the perfect environment.

The productive cycle
Wood feeds Fire, Fire feeds earth, Earth feeds metal, Metal feeds water, and Water feeds Wood. This is known as the Sheng cycle.
The destructive cycle
Metal destroys Wood, wood destroys earth, earth destroys water, water destroys fire, and fire destroys metal.
The controlling cycle
Wood controls metal, metal controls fire, fire controls water, water controls earth and earth controls wood.
The dissolving cycle
Wood dissolves water, water dissolves metal, metal dissolves earth, earth dissolves fire and fire dissolves wood.

 

THE FIVE ELEMENTS
WoodWood - Plant trees, shrubs & flowers
The first element is wood because it is the beginning of new life; it is the originator of the five-element cycle. You can use live wood in the form of a bushy plant similar to a "money plant" as it holds so much live Ch'i and also retains it. Plants also filter the air we breathe and create oxygen, so it's much better to use a natural, living form when it comes to the wood element. Remember to feed and water it, otherwise if it dies it will hold Sha Chi, even on any dead leaves, so keep it in good condition. Planting a variety of trees, shrubs and flowers will help improve the Feng Shui for the whole home.

 

Earth - Rock features, pottery & ornaments
The earth element is often thought of as soil, which is just part of the element. It needs to be combined with rock, clay, and stone. For example a terracotta pot filled with soil is a perfect earth element, or a clay statue. Using natural rocks, stones and gravel is important in a Chinese garden along with the use of terracotta ornaments and pots.

 

Metal - Statues & sun-dial clocks
Metal can be found in many forms. Silver, Gold, Copper, and Bronze are just a few of the metal elements. You can also be creative when using this element; you could use a brass Kwan yin, three-legged toad a dragon or sun-dial. When selecting an element look at the shape, don't choose items with sharp points or unattractive objects just because they have the element you need, Feng Shui is all about creating a harmony and balance and it should look attractive and compliment the environment.

 

Water
Water is the key element; we would not exist without it, our planet as our body is made up of mainly water. It is a very powerful element to use, it should always be clear and free flowing, never let it go stagnant, as this will create many problems. A fountain, waterfall or a simple fishpond in the garden is highly desirable. Water has always been associated with power.

 

Fire
The fire element is the most "Yang" of all the elements. A firelamp, tea-light or fireplace can be used along with electric garden lighting with red shades. Using fire and light in the garden will enhance it's beauty at night and provide your whole home with quality Feng Shui.

 

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