Gardens in China

On our trip to China we visited several Chinese gardens, but I hadn’t done much research on them beforehand, so I was a bit taken aback by the obvious contrasts with Western garden philosophy and design. More than that, it was salutary to see the similarities between the Chinese gardens and the ones I’d seen in Japan, and to realise that the former were the basis for the latter. Of course, the way Japanese gardens have developed is entirely distinctive, and I still find them the more beautiful of the two, but here was where they started.

The classical Chinese garden contains four elements – water, rocks (mountains), plants and buildings. The water and rocks represent the natural world and its landscapes. What wasn’t so obvious to a non-Chinese speaker was the beauty of the language used to name particular features. Coming home, I read Peter Valder’s Gardens in China, and discovered how poetic the names are. Here’s a selection:

Altar of the Land and Grain
Fish-knowing Bridge
Folded Brocade Hill
Garden of Assembled Perfumes
Garden of Exuberant Spring
Garden of Harmonious Interest
Garden of Moonlit Fertility
Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests
Hill of Accumulated Refinement
Incense Burner Peak
Islands of the Immortals
Large Western Heaven
Lodge of the Propriety of Weeding
Longevity Hill
Pavilion of Admirable Fragrance
Pavilion of Literary Depth
Pavilion of the Reposing Clouds
Studio of Introspection
Sufficiency Garden
Temple of Happy Meditation
Temple of the Azure Clouds
Terrace for Receiving Dew
Travelling Palace of Upholding Heaven
Vast Bright Lake
Water Cloud Kiosk
Well of the Pearl Concubine
White Clouds Temple


Hill of Accumulated Refinement, Imperial Garden, Forbidden City, Beijing


Longevity Hill, Summer Palace, Beijing

Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai

Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai

Li Bai poem, Master of Nets Garden, Suzhou

Master of Nets Garden, Suzhou

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About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
This entry was posted in China, gardens. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Gardens in China

  1. BarbaraS says:

    What glorious sounding names these are – all poems in their own right, I'll warrant. Sorry to hear of your friend Brian, but I hope you enjoy the festival and the reading & launch too. Good luck for the sales 🙂

  2. Rachel Fox says:

    They are brilliant names! I think we should all head off right now to rename interesting spots around our own home towns and cities in a similar style. No longer the boring old mid links…say hello to the ‘gardens of immense significance’. And so on. Let the renaming commence!x

  3. Crafty Green Poet says:

    wonderful names, beautiful photos.

  4. Colin Will says:

    Thanks all. I’m trying to think of names for bits of the Amisfield Walled Garden – Border of Random Magnificence, Plot of Great Cabbages, Polytunnel of Rampant Courgettes. It’s not the same.Colin

  5. Rachel Fox says:

    It’s true – those sound more like names for alternative rock bands.x

  6. Anonymous says:

    love the idea, Colin. It certainly justifies us calling our new structure the Bandstand!and I’m going on to comment on theshark story!SallyE

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