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Detail from a painting of the imperial garden
'Yuan Ming Yuan' by either T'ang Tai or
Shen Yuan.  Circa 1744

The Ancient Gardens of China

To compare the gardens of China to any other classical style of garden is patently unfair to both, since the differences are so vast as to be almost beyond comparison.

However, we can't let that stop us from trying.

The primary difference arose from the belief in China that humanity was not above nature, but merely a part of it. This meant that the landscape within a classical Chinese garden was a reflection of the natural world, rather than a rigid design imposed on nature. However, the belief that man was entitled, even obligated, to improve upon nature was also a great influence in the creation of these gardens. And it is this sort of irony and contradiction, the balance of Yin and Yang, that sets these gardens apart from all other classical garden forms.


Selected by the SciLinks program, a service of
the National Science Teachers Association.
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