Saturday, September 12, 2009

(Chinese) Gardens

It is a (Chinese) painting. Meant to be appreciated like one. To be unscrolled slowly……so that the contents of the painting can be revealed gradually. A little at a time. Not all at once. That would be too abrupt and robbing off the delight of subtlety.

If you compare the gardens of the West with Suzhou Gardens, it helps to put Suzhou Gardens in perspective. Upon the entrance of a garden in the West, a visitor is able to, most likely, be granted an omni-vision of the garden. It is the contrary for a Chinese garden as the architect of the garden prefers to shield the rest of the garden off the visitor so as to unravel the surprises with every step he takes. Taking pleasure at a time so as to leave a deeper impression on the five senses of its visitor.

Suzhou gardens are actually private residential dwellings constructed alongside with the gardens. They are both a place to live in and a place to unwind.

The emphasis of visual effect
Chinese gardens are paintings and I meant it literally.

1) “Borrowing” the contents of scenery to create a natural painting. Interestingly, such “paintings” will change in accordance with the passage of time and seasons.

(The same doorway projecting a completely different “painting” altogether from different angles.)

2) Creating paintings at corners. Not a corner is spared in the effort of creating the photographic effect in the garden. The main themes are: mountains and forests. Artificial rocks are used as a means to bring the mountainous landscape into the household artificially whilst bamboos and banana plants for forests.

Spot the painting.

3) Reflection. The reflection of the water offers such wonderful visual distortions and the play of light that this quality of water did not escape the notice of the architect. Not forgetting the infinite possibilities of reflections with the changing daylight and the touch of breeze or the movement of fish in the water.

4) Real paintings in frames. Besides making paintings in the walls, paintings can be hung up on the walls too. Patterns on rocks can be deciphered as paintings too. So what are the interpretations of yours of the following “art works”?

Creation of Space

It is not a matter of space but how the sense of space can be manipulated. By doing the followings:

1) Winding lanes: extending the length of a walk to create a false impression of space.

2) Walls with doorways or windows so as to segregate the garden into different, yet, connected parts. Passing through the doorway resembles travelling from one place to another. The sense of transit creates the sense of a change of space.

3) Hidden corners: Enshrouded in another world.

4) Space in the reflection of water: Away from the buildings and vegetation, a pond offers a refreshing breather and a different way of appreciating the garden at the same time.

Minute details

A lot of details were taken into account in the construction of a Chinese garden. The fragrance, the colours of seasonal flowers and the range of trees were carefully chosen and positioned to achieve a specific archiectural effect with the best intention for the residents of the gardens--so that there will be pleasures in the gardens to be explored at all seasons, at all time of the day and on all occasions.

The best musical piece

Lotus leaves in the ponds are decoration ornaments to the ponds on a dry day and yet, could transform a quiet pond into a musical sensation on a wet day too with the pitter patter from the falling rain drops. Banana plants were popular in Chinese gardens for their broad leaves so as to orchestra a nice little concert in the rain too.

At the end of the day, I just wonder where did people of those days find the luxury of time and the creativtiy to entertain themselves in such ways?