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Diplomarbeit, 2009, 107 Seiten
2.1 About Chinese gardens
2.1.1 The origins of the Chinese garden
2.1.2 The first pleasure gardens
2.1.3 The Imperial Hunting Park and the Garden as an Empire
2.1.4 Scholar gardens
2.2 Scholars and their beliefs
2.2.1 The Symbol of Dao
2.2.2 Time and Space
2.2.3 Yin and Yang
2.2.4 Wu Wei
2.2.5 The Void
2.2.6 The Dao
2.3 Art and Private Gardens
2.3.1 Landscape paintings
126.96.36.199 Shan Shui
188.8.131.52 Between Abundance and Emptiness
184.108.40.206 The Perspective
220.127.116.11 The Return
2.4 Layout of Private Gardens
2.4.1 Spatial concept
18.104.22.168 Arranging of buildings
22.214.171.124 Organisation of Space
126.96.36.199 Organisation of movement
2.4.2 The “Xian”
2.4.3 Rocks and Water in Private gardens
188.8.131.52 The arrangement of rocks
184.108.40.206 Sculptural rocks
2.6 Use of view passages and their background
2.6.1 Screens and Landscape paintings
3. A Walk on the Dao`s way or “How deep is the garden really?”
3.1 Wang Shi Yuan (The Garden of the Fisherman`s net)
3.1.2 Walkabout on the “Customer route”
3.2 Zhuo Zheng Yuan (The Garden of the Humble Administrator)
3.2.3 Walkabout on the “Customer route”
3.3 Liu Yuan (The Lingering Garden)
3.3.3 Walkabout on the “Customer route”
5. Source of Literature
The People's Republic of China (PRC), in ideological classification also called “Red-China”, is the largest country in East Asia and the most populous in the world with over 1.3 billion people, approximately a fifth of the world's population. Since the economic liberalization began after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, the investment and export-led economy of China has grown 70 times bigger and is among the fastest growing in the world.
Although China cultural as well as political is opening up since about thirty years, the Chinese manner of cerebration, except of few exemptions, has still keep refused most people in the western world.
I also had to learn this the hard way at the beginning of my stay in Shanghai, although I tried to prepare for my travel. Primarily this has to do with the ancient Chinese ideology self. The Chinese, who are calling their country “The Empire of the Middle”, were on principle in the past rarely attempted to leave their nation because the remaining world for them was not really livable. Outside the boundaries, there lived the so called barbarians, who in ancient times mostly were embodied by brutal Mongolian tribes, who martially tried to infiltrate China and from them the Chinese had to protect. So, they created their own world, a world in the world, enclosed by the thousands of meters long Great Wall (Chang Cheng), inside of they felt confident and could develop further. This retirement in an enclosed space and last but not least the retirement in oneself paved finally the way for their private gardens, in which they could undisturbed find an access to a better “world”.
This essay will deal with these little enclosed garden worlds, these micro-cosmos in a macro-cosmos. This work consists of a searching for their history and the holistically “religious” backgrounds, which first made enable these small but coevally “infinite” universes. It get to the bottom of the correlations between time and space, establish relationships between narrow and open, bright and dark, and last but not least inside and outside, which all are parts of an all-containing, super-ordinate “Great”. It makes close connections to landscape paintings and the gardens self, which as major motif threads through the whole text, will find out that they are close correlated to the “Great” and grapple with the centre of the “Whole”, with the “Zero-Perspective” or the “Vapidness”, in which the human as important part at least can dive in to touch the sky.
Of course also the framework of a Chinese private garden, the several elements, are considered, without them no garden could exist. The role and the important task of their walls will be bespoken, the several constructions of their buildings and last but not least the close to the human correlated plants.
All this aspects will be picked up again at a walkabout through three famous Chinese gardens in Suzhou (a for Private Gardens well-known town about 70 kilometers afar from Shanghai), where the mindfully reader finally will notice, that size does not necessarily count in architectural garden space.
The answer<A[answer|reply]> of the question which associations cause Chinese gardens in the western world activates almost always the same reaction in our widths: They only rarely suggest an idea<A[idea|presentation]>, and when nevertheless, then rather that of Japanese gardens with its<A[its|his]> exquisite arrangements of stones and moss and with its<A[its|his]> trimmed pine trees and dry watercourses.
Nevertheless Chinese gardens are of another kind: Compact and confusingly, controlled by tremendous rock compositions and varied, close onto innumerable areas buildings. The Chinese garden is thus without any parallels, that it<A[it|he]> appears foreigners often completely unintelligible and even often strongly grotesque. They essentially bespeak a deeply and from time immemorial coming consideration of the world and the position of the human being in it<A[it|her]> . At the same time, however, they formed the background of a civilization in their<A[their|her]> long history<A[history|story]> also in very real manner because moreover they were places of the meeting and the work of the famous Chinese painters and poets.
If one liked to carry out a fundamental subdivision of the Chinese gardens, one could<A[could|might]> subdivide it<A[it|her]> chronologically into the Pleasure gardens, the Imperial Hunting Parks and Imperial Gardens, and into the Scholar Gardens, whereas all these classes in their<A[their|her]> origins were deeply influenced by the love of the nature and their<A[their|her]> interactions.
The Chinese civilization arose in a wide lowland, which for instance lies on the latitude of the American federal state Tennessee and the Mediterranean Sea island Creta. Western of that in the foothills of the Himalaya the Huang He (Yellow river<A[river|flow]>) originates, which flows in a wide arc to the east into the seas that form the edge of the Pacific Ocean<A[big|<A[arch|bow|curve|sheet]>. In 13th BC in this lowland different groups found together, from that finally the Chinese civilization developed. Since the first Chinese lived from the farming they admired the soil in an amazing manner, <A[ground|bottom]what one could refer also as "Agrarian Fertility Religion". For example in some areas<A[areas|regions]> the Chinese held the life-giving rain for the seed<A[seed|semen]> of the uppermost<A[uppermost|supreme]> ruler, a vegetation God who fathered not only the human being, but all living things on the body of the mother goddess earth. The human being was therefore not regarded as a being<A[being|nature]> that distinguished from all created fundamentally, and so as all forms also the human beings<A[his|its]> luck and <A[his|itgrowth depended from the successful adaptation to the nature and its<A[his|its]> strengths'.
But the splendid landscape in which the Chinese lived did not instill only reverence, it<A[it|she]> reminded them also of that sublime order of the whole universe, into which the human being nevertheless had to join.
This opinion<A[opinion|view]> is found in <A[with|in the case many farming cultures, but in China it<A[it|she]> developed to the ideal of the harmonious<A[harmonious|harmonic]> cooperation which stood for more than two thousand years in the center of the Chinese philosophy.
The first Chinese garden was mentioned in the Book of Songs (Shi Jing) which for instance arose around the 6th century before <A[in front of|Christ. The garden contained willows<A[pastures|willows]>, hard woods and mulberry trees and was surrounded from a protecting wall in order to hold exaggerated human actions<A[actions|conducts]> outside. This description reflects again very well the natural sense<A[sense|understanding]> of the Chinese, in which the human being always represents only a small part of the whole and which one should be also basic principle for the mostly later Chinese gardens.
Already in the first Chinese books (Yi Jing) one can find a connection<A[connection|context]> between the gardens and the uncontrollable nature if it tells of the joys, which are to be found in the hills and gardens. A real description of a pleasure garden is found, however, first<A[first|only]> in a poem from the 4th century BC, which arose in the south Chinese state Chu (an early kingdom, that included the nowadays provinces of Hunan, Hubei, Chongqing, Henan, Shanghai and parts of Jiangsu). Nevertheless, even if in this poem only an imaginary garden is described, the description must have arisen before the background of an already highly developed landscape gardening tradition. In this poem from Shamans and Shamankas (female shamans) is spoken, who were able to quit their bodily wrapper and stay thus in contact with supernatural beings with the aid of techniques causing ecstasy. The Shamans sang in a ceremony also for the dying king and the light-footed princesses who waited for him<A[him|it]> in his<A[his|its]> garden pavilion. The garden palace had high, shady rooms, doors from scarlet-coloured grating and roof beams that were painted on both sides with dragons and snakes<A[snakes|queues]>. In the winter the rooms were warm, in the summer they opened themselves, however, to an all-encompassing garden.
Moreover in the song, the shamans told, that the king could stroll around in the garden in galleries joined under each other, which could catch with their breath the fragrance of the orchids. Furthermore watercourses wind onto peacocks and next to the pavilion a hibiscus hedge blooms. From the seat in the hall one can see, leaned against the balustrade, onto a pond in wound form. Its lotus blossoms just<A[just|now]> opened themselves and purple-stocky<A[stocky|sturdy]> water mallows let appear the surface of the green waves like enameled.
Possibly this description originates from the fantasy of the Shamans, nevertheless ones can suggest that this "dream" for them already accepted the character of an ideal reality in this time. And moreover one already can find in these descriptions also the wound water-courses, the lotus pond, the shady ambulatories and the pavilion with its<A[its|his]> balustrades, which all later gave the Chinese the right atmosphere for their “boundless” art.
At the end of the Zhou-dynasty the Chu-Empire<A[empire|Reich]> was completely destroyed and with it<A[it|him]> the refined<A[refined|fancy]> and elegant culture which had produced also the first Chinese gardens. After the destruction the development<A[development|evolution]> of the garden was transferred into the center of the power in the north. There, instead of the private royal pleasure gardens, the wide hunting grounds were described, in which the hunting self became the symbol of the imperial power.
Also in the Shi Jing (Book of songs) poems are found that describe hunt societies as amusement, which was reserved to the noble ones as in many other societies. War and hunting were closely associated, whereas hunts were produced as military exercises at which hundreds of beaters, foot-soldiers, archers and riders took part of it.
But the hunt grounds were also served as a stage for magic ceremonies. When the emperor at the end of the year gathered his<A[his|its]> entire<A[entire|whole]> royal suite around himself to fend an epidemic, a big<A[big|tall]> crowd<A[crowd|flock]> of blackly dressed<A[dressed|suited]> boys and girls appeared with red turbans that fired arrows from their<A[their|her]> red peach wooden arches<A[arches|bows|curves|sheets]> into the sky<A[sky|heaven]>. The arrows should destroy the bridge of the demons to the earth, behead the “wheel-headed devils” and break the “swamp goblins” their heads. As soon as everything was past, the in-charge officer searched in the whole capital for still living demons, until every house was cleaned from inside. Thus the hunting park became to a place of ritual meetings between humans and the cosmos, and call up additionally spiritual and magic associations, which<A[which|who]> the Chinese garden preserved until today.
Nevertheless the parks were not only scene of important ceremonies, they even also accepted a symbolic role by degrees. The Chinese emperors used indeed size and splendor of their<A[their|her]> parks very consciously for displaying the glossiness of their<A[their|her]> dynasties. Thus to the previous role of the park also its<A[its|his]> function as micro-cosmos of the empire were joined.
Already the first emperor Shi Huang Di established a hunting park by the name of Shanglin with many birds and trees, which his<A[his|its]> vassals had to provide him. This park was largely preserved also after his<A[his|its]> death and became to a symbol of a miniature empire<A[empire|Reich]> in the empire<A[empire|Reich]>. The poets told, that this area was covered from hills and forests, extended over thousand li (about 500 kilometers), and eight rivers from the four cardinal points<A[cardinal points|directions]> found there to their<A[their|her]> union. From north, south, east and west coming, they squirmed<A[squirmed|wound]> through forests and wide levels and whirled in wild disturbance through narrow gorges. In order to complete the picture, the poets involved far and commanding reverence mountains into their<A[their|her]> descriptions because they were essential if the park should be a true “copy”<A[copy|image]> of the universe.
Nevertheless these luxurious exhibitions soon developed to dissoluteness and to moral downfall. The philosopher Mencius reported about the rulers, that they turned the fields of the farmers<A[farmers|pawns]> into park and robbed thus the human being of their<A[their|her]> base. This loss of farmland led to a moral, social and finally even to a physical breakdown<A[breakdown|collapse]>.
A ruler, wasteful above all masses, was Sui Yangdi, the founder of the Sui Dynasty (580-618 A.D.). He sent out three great military expeditions<A[expeditions|dispatches]> in order to conquer Korea, and ordered the construction<A[construction|building]> of a gigantic channel, which should connect the rice cultivable area in the south with the big cities in the north. Moreover a garden with 120 kilometers of extent,<A[extent|circumference|volume]> in which lay an about 10 kilometers long lake, was laid out on his<A[his|its]> command<A[command|order]>. From its<A[its|his]> glass face, provided with pavilions lavishly, the three "Islands of the immortals" arose and waterways the lake joined with other ponds and rivers<A[rivers|flows]> in order to point out the five lakes and the four seas of the arranged universe.
However, regardless of the immoderate extravagance, the imperial gardens contributed two important basics<A[basics|bases]> without which later gardens could hardly exist. On the one hand the idea<A[idea|presentation]> of the mysterious dwellings of the immortal ones and on the other hand the idea<A[idea|presentation]> of the garden as a microcosm in which all wealth<A[wealths|riches]> of the world can be found.
In the previous chapters we heard already some basic things about<A[about|over]> Chinese gardens and of that time already centuries-old philosophy, even if it finally degenerated into effusive splendor especially at the emperor yard<A[yard|court]>. The constructors of the scholar gardens assumed these basic principles, but attempted to preserve the moral integrity and the Confucian value system. They were deeply influenced by the Daoism philosophy and separated themselves from the society<A[society|company]> in order to find in their gardens with the aid of art a connection to the nature and thus to the world.
China experienced an extremely painful period of political and social turbulence from the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 A.D.) to the three Kingdoms (220-265 A.D.), the Jin Dynasty (265-420 A.D.) and the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589 A.D.). Through the breakdown of the Han-Dynasty, the accompanying loss of the confidence into the old order and the political jumble, as well as the hypocrisy and weakness at the emperor court, the honorable people were robbed of the confidence into the Confucian values. They could not longer believe in an ethical system, which China had diverted so far from its way and thus turned to other philosophies, a kind of intellectual escape from the chaos for a new interest in the Daoism believe of nature.
Thus a special group of people, who were called “Men of Letters”, separated themselves from the mass.
These people were mostly writers and painters, who turned away from their political career on the kingdom of the court to concentrate on the essential things in the life. Zhuang Zhou was the early representative of this type of hermits. He regarded officialdom and material riches as “dust”. The “Seven worthies in the bamboo forest” of the Jin Dynasty, including Ji Kang, Shan Tao, Ran Ji and several others, were the most famous of this special social stratum. They were all highly educated and talented men, who believed in Daoism, refused to serve the government and escaped therefore into the mountains to live in the holes of trees or in caves. Their life was hard and full of danger, yet nature on the other hand gave them great spiritual satisfaction and provided a source of inspiration for their artistic and literary experiments.
Tao Qian, the most famous scholar and hermit at the end of the Jin Dynasty (265-420 A.D.), was the model for the literati through the ages. He was at one time a county magistrate. Refusing to bow to the powerful and the influential and beg for this salary of five dou (5 deci-litre) of grain, he served only for eighty days, took off his official hat and left his post. In his famous "Return to the native Field" he wrote: “By nature I love the mountains; by mistake I fell victim to wordly dust. Encaged in such custody for thirty years, I at last returned to the embrace of nature."
But in spite of the disappointments, that befell them through the aristocracy and the society, they nevertheless never lost their confidence in the Confucianism. Therefore the hermit’s ideology was closely related to both, Confucianism and Taoism. Confucius taught that "A gentleman should serve his country when there is truth in the world, but he should withdraw, when there is none." This idea was deeply rooted in the ideology of the men of letters. By "withdraw", they meant that a gentleman should preserve his moral integrity when the government was corrupt and the society in chaos, he should resign and wait for the day when a good government emerged and moral principles were restored. As for the idea of hermitage, it underwent gradual change in the course of time.
But the spartan hermit’s life in the holy mountains was cumbersome and thus not always pleasant. And many of them also did not want to renounce their political career completely. Therefore the opinion developed increasingly, that one could be a hermit not only in the mountains and forests, but in the city as well. And even when one served as a minor officer in the government, one could still be a hermit at heart. In this way, one could preserve one's integrity by remaining free and aloof, although he lives within the town. This philosophy had a significant impact on the development of the private gardens. And to be able to see which essential background private gardens have, it is important to understand the basics of their "religions".
We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the centre hole, the hub, which makes the wagon move. (L aozi, D ao de jing, C hapter 11)
The picture of the wagon, or more precise the picture of the wheel is a picture of the Dao. The wheel as Dao is accordingly nothing static, but something moving continuously although it does not change its initial form. It is thus a process and is characterized by its rotation and movement.
In the centre of the wheel there is the hub, which is distinguished by its position in the middle, by the emptiness, the rest and by its detail. All spokes connect equally to the hub, none has a privileged, of the other spokes different position. Only the hub has a special place in the centre, a special position in the wheel, whereas this centre is empty, while all which surrounds the hub is being filled. It remains in its position and gives the spokes their space what they need to move. Without this inflexible reference point, without this stationary pole, the movement of the spokes would get out of balance and the wheel would not run anymore and would break. Thus, the hub has a "leadership position" in the wheel, without doubt, it controls the way of the circulation.
The spokes, the material things, have positive regulations while the vacancy, however, is unsigned. If it would be positive, it would not be empty anymore. While the spokes are turning in the wheel, the hub always stands still.
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
Picture of the Dao
In their circulation the spokes are filling all possible positions: above, below, to the right and to the left, they are running through the whole space. Through their course they define the borders of the space. The cavity that the spokes are running through is a space of contrasts and is based on transformation into their opposites. Through the circulation, the spoke that lies above, changes its position with the spoke at the bottom and the entire circumference is subjected to a harmonious change.
The spokes also subdivide the wheel into single segments or spaces which never overlap each other and take turns with the time. Thus, spokes and spaces are relative to each other while the connection of the hub and spoke is being absolute. One considers the wheel as a whole, however, the relative ones and the absolute contrasts cancels each other, whereby the system is recognized as an ensemble, where everything contributes its part to this continuously replaying symphony.
This historic declaration of space and time should not be actually classified under Daoism, it is rather a basic topic, which has its source in former times. Nevertheless I have to touch it in the fringe of my work because it represents an important basic for the understanding of the Daoism philosophy.
Marcel Granet, who was a great pioneer in sinology research at the beginning of the 20th century, wrote in his book "The Chinese thinking" about the fact that the Chinese did not develop any actual time concept. However, if one decides to stick to the Chinese concepts then it shows, that the Chinese thought two things in touch: On the one hand the moment or the occasion (Shi) which means as much as the right time, when time and space are in unison and on the other hand the duration (Jiu), which is associated with the change of the four seasons, like that of the day and night or that of life and death.
For the Chinese both time-parts belong together because the sequence of the chronological<A[chronological|temporal]> cycles must be current in each case "at the right time". <A[constant|st<<A[time|Thus they form a closed, constant whole, which is associated with the Chinese understanding of the space. In the next lines we will deal with these two time parts and their appropriated space more precise and dwell on their backgrounds.
The old Chinese imagined the cosmos as a square (earth) over which a concave round nappe was put that represents the sky. The square was subdivided into four cardinal points, while the monarch had his seat in the centre, where the space was at the highest density.
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
Chinese view of the cosmos
However, this density was not everywhere the same. Beyond the square the four seas could be found, where the space density decreased. The barbarians, who were related to animals, lived there and everyone who approached to the boundaries had to give up ones higher human life. Therefore space was for the Chinese only in fact space, where higher social forms developed.
The Chinese sign Wang (王), which means king, is subdivided into 3 horizontal lines that are connected with a vertical line. The lowest and uppermost represent the earth and the sky, the middle one the human being and the vertical line the connection, if the cosmic order is reconstructed.
This could occur according to old Chinese traditions only if the monarch (son of the sky) renewed the space all five years in a rhythmical order. He had to begin with his way in the spring at the day and night-same in the east of his empire, to stay during the summer solstice in the south, to be during the fall middle's in the west and in the winter times at the north. Whenever he arrived to a certain season in a related section of his empire, his royal suite was completely dressed in green in spring, red in summer, white in autumn and black in winter, which corresponded to the emblems of the seasons as well as to the cardinal points.
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
Way of the monarch
Through this pastiche of the sun course the segments of the time (seasons) were in unison with the sections of the space (cardinal points) and sky, earth and the human being were parts of the cosmic connection again and the time in accordance with the related space or segment. The game between sky and earth is thus not only a game between this both, its rather a threesome (Trinity) one because on this level also the human being is always present through his privileged link onto the fixed<A[fixed|firm|steady]> earth, and coevally through his own dimension of the heavenly one.
The time is, however, also a mark of the earth while the space is being a distinguishing feature of the sky. When the monarch united earth and sky, he also united simultaneously space and time. Thus one could say, the earth (time) and sky (space) were “synchronized” and the earth had the properties of the sky again. Time and Space are therefore correlated and also changeable (Yin and Yang) because they are animated from the same life breath.
After his journey the monarch recurs back into his place in the middle of the empire and stays there for four years. He rules there in the "hub" of the empire, central, quiet and empty. Among the nation everything turns around him, as well as the spokes around the hub. In this position he was alone and was called "The Orphan" or "The Abandoned".
“I do not act, and the nation changes by itself.
I love the rest, and the nation rectifies by itself.
I am without a task, and the nation becomes rich by itself.
I desire without desiring, and the nation becomes simple by itself.” (Dao de jing, Chapter 57)
That "not action" of the ruler makes the subordinates to fulfill their respective tasks and duties at all places. If he does not intervene in the activities and hold only his position as the empty hub, the citizens can finish what is their task and the whole wheel could not get out of balance.
The concepts Yin and Yang are dominating the Chinese philosophy early their history. Again and again one hears about contradictory strengths as well as substances, however, in order to unveil the true sense of this concepts, one must check first how they were needed in the Chinese antiquity.
Already in the "Book of songs" (Shi Jing) one can find the use of Yin and Yang. Here the term Yin was combined with cold, gloomy weather at a cloud-overcast sky. It describes the interior (nei) and was used also for a cool chamber, in which one kept the ice in the summer. The word Yang refers to the idea of the sun case and the heat. It characterizes spring days during which the solar heat becomes stronger. Here one finds also again the connection of space and time. Yin is the expression of the shaded slopes, as the north slope of the mountain and south shores of the river, and Yang was an expression for the sun-exposed slopes, represented as a northern river bank and a south slope of the mountains.
Also the sexes found their expression in the "contrast" of Yin and Yang. The symmetrical contrast pairs appeared at a celebration, which one happened in the autumn and in the spring in small valleys where a river created a holy border. The young sexes shaped two opposite choirs, lined up to both sides of a ritual axis, which one had a shaded the other a sun-exposed slope. The Yang (men) called and the Yin (women) answered in a cyclical way until the union was reached.
In the “Yi Jing” (Book of the transformations) stands: "i Yin, i Yang, that is the Dao." I Yin, i Yang means as much as one side (times) Yin, one side (times) Yang, because the Chinese could not imagine the time and the space independently of each other. Thus Marcel Granet replaced the words of side and times with the word "aspect" that this term can not be interpreted partial.
Thus Yin and Yang can not be regarded as substances or strengths, rather as relative contrary aspects of a rhythmical kind that alternate mutually in a cyclic way. Yin and Yang complement and necessitate each other and dissolve each other in rhythmical changes, where the circulation of the seasons was important. One can not exist without the other one. In their interplay and cooperation the system of the world is proved, within a given time in the same way as spatially.
In this case everything of the entire appearance and the world was included into this division. According to the arising of the nature in the warm season, Yang suited also for everything stimulating active voices, testifying, creative, expanding and the outside, whereas Yin stands for the winter qualities, for everything passive voices, hidden, moving in, mat and interiors. The intellectual background was always formed by the circulation of the seasons and the rhythmic order of the calendar which was reflecting it, in particular also the rituals defined from the calendar and celebrations. The assignment of Yang to the masculine one was also very essential (and in this way in general to the hard one) and Yin to the feminine one (the soft) because, we heard about it, the old-Chinese society was deeply shaped from the sex contrast. Men and women faced as two concurrent associations competing with each other. The idea of a ritual wedding of Yin and Yang corresponded to this understanding where they were regarded as a whole.
Once, Confucius went with his pupils along a river. The river crossed a narrow gorge and was full of pools. In some distance in front of them went an old man, who suddenly slipped and felt into the river. The pupils annoyed discussed with their master how they could help the old man. Meanwhile they saw the old man climbing calmly some meters further out of the river. They rushed to him and asked how he could escape his death. He said:" I learned, not to counter the water with any opposition and not to maintain any resistance waiting patiently until another whirl takes me upwards again"
The Chinese always had a good feeling for the correct moment through their natural attachment. All works which had to be done in the agriculture; "plowing" in the spring, "weeding" in the summer, "harvesting" in the autumn, "conserving" in the winter; the whole knowledge consisted in intervening in the correct moment of the year and place without hastiness and delay because at least to cultivate the field in the wrong moment would be fatal for them.
And everything is different according to the seasonal commandments and has their own emblems: the clothing, the local changes, the deities that one honors, up to the food that one takes with himself. And all that is valid of course first for the person of the son of the sky that guarantees the mediation between the natural one and the human world.
Laozi (Founder of the Taoism) once said": The good thing in the order is the space, the good thing if one should move oneself is the occasion moment." (Dao de jing)
The Chinese term "Wu Wei" is translated with "do not act". This led often to misunderstandings since one assumed that the Taoists let everything happen to them without acting. Rather it is to understand as "Act at the right time" or "Do not act against the nature" and not to suppress the instincts for the right thing by continuous activity.
At the beginning of the chapter "Space and Time" one can read that the Chinese divided the time into two parts. On the one hand the duration represented as loop, on the other hand the moment. In connection with Wu Wei the time is being understood as moment, one could say the "zero time" while the duration is completely absent. In this moment the time or better “non-time” is completely converted into one infinite space<A[space|r<A[s and neither past nor future exists. In the ideal case of the undisturbed event process there are only alternating presence states. The duration of the circulation is based on the total presence of the single phases. Who is thinking of the past, is hanging to this or who is worried about the future, one hurts the commandment in a way to live only in the "right time".
In order to achieve that, the Daoist must stay in the middle, in the empty hub of the transformation event where the place of the emperor was. And finally that is only possible, if the Daoist give up his own "I", his own perspective, which is embossed<A[embossed|marked]> by his<A[his|its]> desires. Only then he stays in the absolute middle, where only one immense space takes possession of him because there he has the "perspective" of the whole nature, the whole empire, which surrounds him. <A[it|hTo be<A[stand|be]> placed in the center of the nature means therefore to considering the things from the perspective of the nature or that of the sky<A[sky|heaven]>. Only then he has all time of the world because he is that "non-subject", the empty hub that every presence accompanies. He sees through his "zero perspective" through the constant change of the cyclical system. From his perspective there are not any contrasts anymore, there is not anything small, it appears only small if one considers it from its foreign perspective.
So, finally the human being with its position in the middle accomplishes the circle and makes<A[makes|lets]> the circulation<A[circulation|cycle]> first become to the circulation<A[his<A[circle|ring]>. In this position the time-space turns around him, he can capture the change of Yin and Yang in the nature, he sees the dissolve of near and far, full and empty and also notice as soon one aspect change with its opposite. And exactly therefore he is in the situation, to "act" in the correct moment with the aid of his “feeling” that tells him to react, still before an alternation occurs. So, finally the saint returned to the initial emptiness of the cosmos which let all 10000 (10000 stands in China for infinite) things arise.
We shape clay to a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
The door and windows are cut out (from the walls)
to form a house;
but it is on the empty space (within),
that its use depends.
thus tools come from what exists,
but use from what does not. (Dao de jing, Chapter 11)
The emptiness is a basic component of the Daoism. For the harmonious change of Yin and Yang the emptiness is indispensable in their middle because it drags the aspects of the life breath into the process of the change. Without them, Yin and Yang would stay in an inflexible contrast relation.
One can find it often in the texts of Laozi and Zhuangzi (Author of the Book of the Transformations). We could subdivide the emptiness into two categories, but however both parts are overlapping themselves every time. On the one hand the emptiness is what refers to the origin, before the contradictory aspects of Yin and Yang were shaped and on the other hand as a part of the concrete appearance of the already created universe. Francois Cheng simply mentions it in his book "Abundance and Emptiness" part of the Noumenals and part of the Phenomenals.
The emptiness as a part of the Noumenals is the "not being" (wu), which was before sky and earth and what we could call the font ground, from which all have its source. It is the center of the universe, the hub, where all 10000 things have its origin.
Laozi (Dao de jing): ” From the being the ten thousand things were born; the being is born from the not being (wu)"
The emptiness as a part of the Phenomenals on the other hand is settled in the material world. It is found also in the innermost of all things and helps to receive the connection to the uprightly emptiness (hub).
The first meaning of the word Dao is "Way". We already heard when the monarch travelled around the world (The Chinese regarded earth and empire as the same one. China is translated with Zhong Guo, which means "Empire of the Middle") and imitated in this case the sun course, whereat he was considered as a son from the sky. Through his way he brought the cardinal points in tune with the time and achieved thus the heavenly order (Tien Tao). If one has (is) the Dao, ones can arrange space and time and is able to recognize and rule.
After he had assigned the properties of the sky to the earth, he had to set up a Gnomon in the centre, in the hub of his empire. The gnomon was a bolt upright wood pole, which was not allowed to fling any shadow, if it was put forward exactly in the middle of the empire. Marcel Granet describes this process as follows: "If the monarchs set up the capital and determined the crossing of the ways, they had to pay attention to the game of light and shadows (Yin and Yang) and set up a gnomon.”
In the political miracle belief the basic principle always kept validity that in the capital of a fully ruler the gnomon must not fling any shadow at the noon in the summer middle. The myths are even more informative: In the precise centre of the cosmos, where the complete capital should lie, a wonderful tree towers and combines the "Ninth Springs" with the "Ninth Skies", therefore the depths of the earth with theirs ridge (sky). One mentions it the raised tree (Jian Mu) and claims, that proximity nothing, which completely stands uprightly, may fling a shadow.
This ideal picture of the cosmos, the entire "nature", corresponds to the picture of the Dao as an optimally event connection. In the middle of the world a raised tree, a gnomon, stands as a hub, on which the circulation of the nature turns around. It stood exactly in the middle and was shadow-free in the noon.
The ruler takes this point and makes it known that he is the advocate of the Dao, but he is not only the centre of the society, rather he is the centre of the entire world. The interplay of light and shadows, of Yin and Yang corresponds to the interplay of dream and guard existence, of death and live. Around the shadow-free middle, light and shadow change off each other in a rhythmical order. The course of the time is also the changing of the space which circles around the calm hub. Only through the occupation of the middle the subdivision of the world turns in a structured space. If the centre is established, east, south, west and north have their place, their spatial anchoring where they can arrange themselves around.
And the monarch stands in the centre of the world, like the raised tree, which not only unites the four cardinal points horizontally, but also the earth and the sky vertically. He is therefore the middle of the cosmos and the nature and simultaneously on the other hand also the unit of the universe.
The middle and the unit, this is the Dao. The Dao is at the same time hub and whole wheel, it is coevally the Small and the Large. And <A[coursit intervenes in the process<A[process|course]> of the time, because it introduces a circular movement which is responsible for the mutual transformation between time (earth) and space (sky)<A[space|room]>. Since the lived time basically is not anything other than an update of the animated space<A[space|room]>, the Dao brings through its cyclical intervention, which causes a connection to the emptiness uprightly, the quality of the space back in the time - just the same, as the emperor did<A[did|made]> it when he established the connection between earth, human being and the sky as he paced off his<A[his|its]> empire.
The Dao acts therefore as a regulator and guarantees the correct rhythm or breath (Chi) for the integrated appearance of the interactions. Marcel Granet describes that as follows:
"A bove the categories Yin and Yang , the Dao plays the role of a highest category which simultaneously is the category of the power, the entirety and the order. The Dao influences the interplay of all factors. It plays the role of a controlling power. It does not create the beings, but it causes that they become like this what they are. It adjusts the rhythm of the things. Every factor is defined by their position within the space-time structure. The Dao is every factor being inherent. It is the rhythm of the space-time structure. The Dao is the regulator which is responsible for the change of the contradictory aspects. A Yin (Aspect), a Yang (Aspect) that is the Dao ."
Onto the question, which single historical figure shaped the Chinese thinking most lastingly, first the name of Confucius would presumably fall because the Confucianism in China was always a kind of "dogma", which formed the basis of the Chinese society since their existing.
Already early numerous legends arose around the person of Confucius, and he enjoyed godlike status although he even would never have demanded this for himself. Also the birth legend shows that, according to his mother, in the pregnancy the five planets in the form of old men in company of a Qilin (a uni-horned mythical creature) have appeared and would have prophesied, that her child would remain throne-free indeed, but nevertheless would be a king. Two dragons watched over the birth of Confucius while heavenly beings played music in the clouds and a warm source originated from the ground is ebbing again after the small Qiu Zhongni (Zhong means "Second-born”, the so called new member of the family Kong) had been bathed in it.
But nevertheless, rather it is finally true that Confucius was born 551 B.C. in the province Lu. His life falls therefore into the Zhou Dynasty, which was the longest dynasty of the Chinese history. At his living-time the downfall of the dynasty had already started and always more feudal lords got up against the central power of the Zhou and strove for aggressively political and economical independence. With nineteen he entered into the civil service, however, already soon his office he was put off by the corrupt political relations. After that, he was disappointed, founded an own school and wandered through the country with his pupils as a kind of philosopher.
Occasionally he got a position as a consultant of a sovereign, but soon he always fell in disgrace again and lost his position because the ministers did not like his incorruptibility and the simple nation mocked him due to his simple appearance. He was so poor that he would once almost have starved, and reached, although he scraped three thousand pupils around him, never to prosperity.
Confucius had never striven for a renewal of the teaching. He did not want to create any new society concepts. He just wanted to go backwards on an idealized antiquity in which all human, political and moral aspects of the world had their firm place and where the harmonious co-ordination of these fix constellations were for the welfare of all. According to his opinion, this smooth interlocking of the different strengths had gotten out of balance so that he saw his task in reconstructing it.
His lessons are based on the Lun Yu (Book of the conversations) which one contains the four virtues humanity, justice, childlike piety and the rites. The human ideal for Confucius was the "noble one" (Junzi), a morally flawless human being, who was aspired to realize the four virtues and thus the reconstruction of the order’s society. And according to his opinion the human being are able to be noble only then, if it is in harmony with the whole world: To find the hub and the central harmony, which unites the moral being with the universal order, was the highest human destiny for him. Harmony and middle, equability and balance are the key for an efficient society.
But in this case these aims described for Confucius only an ideal, which is never to be reached. Important is, however, that one does not give up to reach this ideal approximate. The noble one makes an effort to achieve this ideal as near as possibly, but he knows about the un-attainability of it. Honest bothering is therefore the factual ideal of the Confucianism while the fictive ideal is being regarded as inaccessible. Ambition is thus first condition of the noble one:
“Who does not strive for that, I will not reveal him the truth. (Confucius VII, 8)
The Confucian ethic is thus as well as the Daoism, which continuously accompanies it, nothing metaphysical, it is neither a God-search, nor a finding of an abstract "good". It is only a great thought for a closed into itself, functioning social system in which all gearwheels interlock softly by mutual respect and love, and where every individual finally just has to fulfill it's task for which it is certain.
Richard Wilhelm, missionary and founder of the German Sinology, summarizes the teaching of the Confucius in his book “Kongzi-life and work” concluding as follows:
"For every circumstance there is an action, through which the interior of the human being expresses itself so that it is in harmony with the cosmos."
(Richard Wilhelm, Kongzi-Life and Work, page 12)
In China landscape painting and gardening are combined with each other in their development so closely, that ones can hardly understand the one without having dealt with the other. Both arts developed together, the painters contributed their part to the origin of that aesthetic sense that guided the Chinese during the consideration of their gardens, and the gardens passed back these conventions to the painters in turn. Together they created the "look" for the subtle work of the Dao and the atmospheres combined with that in the sequence of the seasons.
Unlike the Western Landscape painting that always attempted to display the landscape as an object, to chapter the character therefore as a complete manifestation of the form, the Chinese Landscape painters rather tried to understand the internal consistency of the things. They painted not only an object, which was therefore ripped out from the whole “matrix” they rather painted the whole universe with all its connections and interplays. The Chinese landscape pictures thus tended to become a similar microcosm that according to the model of the macrocosm creates an open space, a never ending "world", in which true life is possible.
The right translating of the term Shan Shui is mountain and water. For the Chinese, mountains and water (oceans) were the paragon of the landscape. Therefore the landscape painting was mentioned also “mountain and water painting”. They were the two poles of the nature, Yin and Yang, which pass over from one to other and cannot exist without each other. Therefore the Chinese painted the landscape between these contradictory aspects, they painted thus the constant crossing of mountain and water, of Shan and Shui. Hence they could couch what causes the stimulation of the world through the interaction of the aspects. One can express itself through the other one simultaneously because they are both penetrated by the same rhythmic circulation, the change of Yin and Yang.
"The mountains, with its peaks piling up above each other, its rock chains, its hidden valleys and deep abysses, its rising highly peaks, its fumes and clouds, is like the sea with its tremendous surfs, its entwining and its expectorating... The mountains even "live" in the sea... The same one is valid also for the sea with regard to the mountains. The mountains resemble the sea as the sea resembles the mountains."
(Francois Jullien, The great picture has no form p79)
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Shan-Shui, from Maggie Keswick, The Chinese Garden p174
If the Chinese painted between mountain and water, the painters could express out thus all which must contain a landscape. In their painting between the poles, they could express the whole universe.
The Chinese already also understood it to make correspondences between the properties of the nature and the human virtues. And the human being has the virtues with which mountain and water are equipped. These correspondences come from the Daoism: The valley contains the secret of the feminine body and rocks testify the fault-conscious comments of the man. However, that has not something to do with simple symbolism. These correspondences are focused on a real communion because the human being internalized finally the outside world, so it is not simple only a surface. In their being considered from inside, it becomes the expression of the human being himself, a portrait of the painter self, of his spirit and his virtues. It becomes a portrait of his rhythm, of his hidden passions and his unrealized dreams. Mountain and water have the same virtues or abilities what the people have or want to achieve. Thus the painter wanted to become a “partner” of them, he wanted to share the virtues of the landscape and those of the sky to finally become part of it.
Thus mountain and water must not be understood as metaphor, rather they embody basic laws of the macro-cosmic, the entire universe, that has a connection with the microcosm of human being. Nevertheless, even if they are often not "figurative" shown in the painting, the human being is never absent.
As we already heard, mountain and water tend to pass in each other incessantly because they correspond to Yin and Yang. They are attracted continuously by the complementary. Just the same as Yang is contained in the Yin and vice versa, the mountain (Yang) is potentially water and the water (Yin) is potentially mountain. And in order to facilitate this fluent, circular crossing, the void was used in the paintings.
We heard, the Chinese landscape painters were always attempted, to paint all things between "to be" and "not to be". Instead of to display an object as an inflexible form like the Western landscape painters, the Chinese were attempt to bring the entire continuous process of the nature transformations onto the silk. In order to achieve this, they had to beware to paint distinctive states that are separated and countered by each other. They rather had to display the nature between their existence poles, between any manifestation and form, in their constant change, among "being" (you) and "not being" (wu).
The "being" and the "not being" produce each other said Laozi
(Dao de jing, Chapter 2)
One glimmers through the other one, no definition is arbitrative. The property retires itself just as rapidly as it declares. Therefore they did not paint any certain things in order to lead it better before eyes and to make their presence protrude, in fact they painted it according to the big change of the breath (Yin and Yang), at the same time "to be" and "not to be", present-absent, half brightly and half dark. One is already at the work while the other one is still expanding.
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Diffuse landscape painting, from Wen C. Fong, “Beyond Representation” , p95
And all that is possible only through the emptiness. In this way the undifferentiated source ground is meant, the not painted space, the hub, which everything arises from. Before all things can completely manifest themselves, before they reach the figurative "zenith", they dive into the emptiness again and appear clarified and changed at other place.
Thus mountains, water and trees could never paint as an “object” they are always infused with absence. Also houses, forests and waterways are never completely seen, there is always a crossing into the not painted space, so that in this way their communication and interaction can be increased and thus to be lifted into a "higher" register.
The not painted space is mostly represented by a cloud or mist, as an intermediate state between the two obviously opposite poles because in nature, the cloud also arises from the condensation of water and accepts synchronously the form of the mountain. Therefore it involves the two poles in the process of the mutual transformation.
" With the aid of the emptiness the painter gives the impression, that the mountain passes apparently in emptiness and melt to the form of waves. In the countermove the water curls up to the mountains after it ran through the emptiness. Mountains and water are not perceived therefore as partial and frozen elements, they rather embody the dynamic law of the reality."
(Francois Cheng, Abundance and E mptiness p54)
Now, if one considers a landscape painting, one will notice, that it is subdivided into several sections, which consist of painted space and are separated with each other by void. If the observer follows to enter the painting intellectually, the impression is given, as if one jumps everytime from one layer to the next. These single layers or sections were more or less closed into themselves in each case and simultaneously connected with the preceding and the following ones in an organic manner. And this connection is not anything other than the emptiness with its cosmic breath because it has the function to point out an immense space, a space that is born from the spirit.
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Landscape pictures consisting of several layers, from Wen C. Fong, “Beyond Representation”, p188
The emptiness is, however, not only between the things, it is also in the painted “forms”. It opens it, ventilate it and lay open their respiration property. It releases the figure from their weight and is responsible to hold the connection to the universal emptiness.
Finally the emptiness is to owe that the painter could paint the cyclical process of yin und yang, of abundance and emptiness with his undifferentiated "forms". Finally he could thus paint the whole cosmos, he described the entire universe and the great process, which is not anything other than the Dao self, on the one hand represented by the emptiness in it, on the other hand as the whole and the universal one.
In the western landscape painting the vanishing point perspective played a very important role. We heard that they painted the landscape as an object from a very certain visual angle. Only this angle of the painter self was essential, at this place, from which the landscape had the most completely capture in their three dimensions. Simultaneously it was, however, for this purpose condemned, to ignore the coexistence of the other aspects.
The Chinese landscape painting went another way. In their Daoism way of life it was a question rather of attaining an integrated viewpoint of the nature. The nature had to become "to un-objectify" because only in this way it was possible to represent the entire cosmos.
"The great picture has no form" (Laozi, Chapter 41)
Because if it has a form, there would be separation and if it is not this one, it is the other one. If it is not bright, it is dark, if it is not hot, it is cold. And if it has form, it would not be “the whole” one, it would not be the large Dao anymore. For this we have to annotate, that "large" is not the opposite of small, it is rather a synonym for the all-encompassing whole.
All world says, my Dao is large, it does not seem resembling anything, however, but only because it is large, it does not seem resembling anything, if something would resemble, it would be already small again. (Laozi, Dao de Jing, Chapter 67)
Thus the great picture must not have any form, nothing may not be completely separated or countered. Only in this way it can pick up all beings and things in itself and has finally the power to let the world come to ones.
Therefore the Chinese painter limned mountains with pleasure because the mountains, that are covered with veils of fog, which are towering from the haze of the emptiness, can contain all possible shapes.
"The hidden treasures of the sky and the earth come from the mountains", they contain "Caves in which the immortal ones and the saints live": The "confused dimensions" of the mountains is the source ground and when the life lines of their combs bleed through their veins, they transfer the cosmic pulse. The mountains are the picture matrix of the whole landscape whose resources the painter exploits incessantly; still more, one can never come onto an end with this natural wonderful. The mountains are that inexhaustible one, because they contain the lavish abundance of the world. One can raise the look to his peaks, which gives one a high distance: ones sight is now radiantly clear; one can also, standing in front of the mountains, consider their background, what gives them a deep distance: their sight is now dark and difficult; or one can consider the far mountains from the mountains that are close, which gives them a flat distance: their sight is now both, bright and dark. The perspectives overlap themselves, the mountains are both, one and the other one, they are suitable for all visual angles."
(Guo Xi from Francois Jullien, The great picture has no form p75)
The visual angles which Guo Xi refers here are the three basic "distances" of the Chinese bird's-eye view. The "profound distance", where the painter is on a hill from which he has a wide panorama look, the "increased distance", in which the painter is in a relatively low level and looks up, and the "flat distance", from a near position, where the view of the observer roams without obstruction into the infinity.
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Profound distance Increased distance Flat distance from Wen C. Fong, “Beyond Representation”, p99, p70, p89
The mountains can be seen thus from different visual angles which of course always reflect also the virtues of the observer. According to the distance and the “view” of the observer the same mountain can look from the front like this, side on like that and from behind again differently. To paint the mountains means therefore, to render it as a collective picture, to unfold all these differences without to exclude them mutually. Only therefore it could be achieved that it is in fact the real great picture, the medial space, which the painter is finally able to “internalize” and can move through to find his own fulfillment.
And in order to achieve a such “raised into life” picture, the painter have to return to the origin, to dive into the hub, where his "subject" become projected to the outside step by step and where his picture changes to his own "internal landscape".
"Only if one goes back to the "Phenomenon-Figuration" of the invisible font at the beginning of this cycle, it is really possible "to create"."
(Francois Jullien, The great picture has no form p41)
Everything begins with the first stroke onto the virgin paper which represents the initial emptiness. It separates the sky from the earth. Only through this separation the two aspects Yin and Yang can protrude. From the twos all forms of the world arise in further consequence through metamorphosis. And finally the completion of the painting as a highest degree of the development in which return at the end of the circle all things into the initial emptiness, which was before the first separating line.
The return is the accomplished painting, where the painter by observing it becomes part of the universe again. It is rolled up for a universe included in itself. To unroll it means to achieve the miracle, to untie the time and to revive the live and determining rhythm of the Dao. In the measure, as the painting is unrolled, the lived time changes into one infinite space. If the landscape moves in front of the observer`s eye, from right to left or from the bottom to the top, through all metamorphosis to disappear into the distance, the viewer finally is able to achieve the "re-appropriation", a “re-appropriation” of the present or maybe dreamed universe, but in every case incessantly bubbling life.
Differently than in the remaining world, where the painting developed before the script, in China the script formed the basis of the painting and henceforth they both developed together. The verb "to paint" (Hua) accompanied to the expression for "writing" (Xie) only step by step or even would have been increasingly replaced by this term. So it can happen that especially the old painters say that they "write" rocks, trees or landscapes because the Chinese character s are already a picture in itself, and the scholar crushes the same indian ink and leads the same paintbrush, whether in the writing or in the painting.
The basis of both arts is the same segment of a line which rises in the use and finals in a single, unrepeatable arrival. The first line ( 一 Yi, one), that separates the sky from the earth, contains all further in themselves and is thus the "preceding basis" of all writings and paintings.
"In my speech of the art of painting, I spoke simultaneously also of the art of writing"
(Shitao, 17th Chapter)
Thus writing and painting flow into each other and "complement" themselves as the apparent contrasts of the Dao. One could say that the painting is a "dumb" poem and the poetry a "speaking" (sounding) painting and both have their origin in the innermost feelings of the artist. Painting as well as poetry gives the invisible feelings "form" while they alienable it, whether now in words or in figures because their process is of the same kind, therefore they are able to take turns. Hence that they often recommended to the Chinese painters, that they should read poems in order to attain internal collection and serenity to limn wonderful paintings.
"In my leisure hours I often read poems of the Qin- and the Tang-time, old or modern, and can find beautiful verses in them that completely express what the human being carries out in his interior and let fully protrude the scenes that he has before eyes. I can use the emotions (xie yi) of these poems to get the emotions for my painting's.
But if I am not correctly quiet and sit in front of a bright window, at a clean table or I do not light a joss stick and make all worries evaporate, that sense which is being inherent in these wonderful verses is not revealed and their hidden feelings as their noble intentions cannot be understood anymore. How should it also would be easy to achieve the emotion that defines the liveliness of the painting"?
(Guo Xi, The great picture has no form, page 252)
But also the approach of both was the same one. In the painting it was attempted to create non-objects which faced in the poetry the quasi non-framing. Of course it was final heavily possible to create a non-object, if ones at least did not want to have a white canvas, which nevertheless some painters succeeded when they had completely reached their innermost middle, but what also finally have been created the term of the "dullness". Thus the painting have already given a certain vague form, but finally it dips this form again into the un-differentiateness, and in the same manner the poem "speaks", but it avoids to express too clearly. Moreover the poems are also contained by emptiness and are pervaded by the same rhythm as well as the paintings.
Now, if one considers a landscape painting, one mostly can find poems that were written to the upper edge into the sky. This poem is not a merely superimposed annotation, rather it lives from the painting, so as the painting lives from the poem because what the poetry is not able to express completely with words anymore, exceeds the art of the writing and changes into painting and if the art of the painting encounters its limits, shapes are becoming words.
"When I enjoy a poem Wang Weis, I can find a painting in that, and when I consider a painting from him, I can find a poem." (Su Dongpu)
But the poems have an even deeper meaning because they bring the live dimension of the time in the picture. Through the poems rhythm and contents they are able to extend the space. Through the reverberation which causes it, the painting still extends further. A time in the lived and constantly renewed rhythm, one that can hold the space open and makes the human being possible in this manner to presence among sky and earth also if they are not figurative shown.
"As a young man I was known as a painter. I was interested by the nature in seeking out the unusual; since I derived most pleasure from the brushes of Guan Tong and Jing Hao, I paid homage to their style in all my work."
This passage comes from Ji Cheng, a famous painter and landscape gardener from the Ming Dynasty. The Chinese landscape gardening is closely associated with painting and poetry. They penetrate and complement each other. As well as the "great" picture from what the painters always swarmed, also the garden is to be regarded as a manifestation of the Dao. It is thus not only a pure landscape copy, it is, like the landscape painting self, a microcosm with its aid the artist could get a connection to the nature macrocosm. As well as the rhythmic change of Yin and Yang, the cosmic breath, pass through the universe, it also penetrate the garden and guarantees thus for a continuous change of the events still before the climax is reached.
As well as a landscape picture, also the garden consists of basic elements from which mountain and water represent the most important ones. Without shan and shui (mountain and water), whose constantly changes the nature as it appears, no Chinese garden could exist. But also plants play a not subordinate role. They were not only just plants rather they were springs for hopes, feelings and virtues of the garden owners.
Moreover of course also buildings were set, which one saw them as a contradictory aspect to the natural "elements". Water, mountains and plants that continuously change form the "soft", while buildings are symbolizing the static and the "hard" thing. We will also see later that even these two take turns cyclically, if one is moving through the garden.
The buildings furthermore symbolize with their sharp delimitations and their symmetry also the Confucian aspect of the garden which was opposed to the natural forms of the Daoism. And all these elements arise through the rhythmic breath that pervades them cyclically, such as a symphony, which sounds in the tact of the ever changing universe.
The essential basic idea of the spatial concept is to enlarge the space beyond its borders. A reason for that is certainly that most private gardens were directly constructed among the city, where the space was bounded.
However, a surely more essentially reason was, that the constructors wanted to provide the feeling of the infinity of the Dao. At least, they wanted to achieve the empty condition of the infinite hub, which gave them the possibility to associate with the universe and to become that "immortal". They wanted to dive into the infinite void of the picturesque universe because the garden is not anything other than a landscape picture, which finally lets the observer become a timeless one in an infinite space..
And to suggest the infinite space of the Dao, the constructors used some "tricks". On the one hand they divided the limited space into further smaller subspaces. In the first moment one would like to think, that this technique causes a rather restricting space feeling, but the skilfully distribution and visual connection caused exactly the opposite.
The visual connection could be described very simple as "borrowing the landscape", which, however, also odours, noises and even shadows could be borrowed from. A further measure to achieve an immense space was never to show the whole landscape space at the same time. In a Chinese private garden one can never overlook the whole terrain from one point, up to some intended exceptions. But all these topics will be expatiated even later.
In order to let the stream of the life flow in the garden, first the terrain must be observed exact that one is able to pay attention to the natural conditions.
"Following the existing lie of the land may mean any of this skills: designing in accordance with the rise and fall of the natural contours, to accentuate their intrinsic form; or to looping branches from trees that block the view and using rocks to direct the flow of a spring, so that each borrows value from the other. Where a pavilion would be appropriate, ones should build a pavilion, and where a gazebo should lies, one build a gazebo. It does not matter if the paths are hidden away; in fact they should be laid out so that they twist and turn with the land like the cosmic breath; this is what is meant by artistry through suitability." (Ji Cheng, Ye Yuan p39)
As we can recognize in this passage of the Ye Yuan or Craft of Gardens, the art to build a garden lays to adapt the objects to the factors of the terrain and if possible, still to refine. Every terrain is different as well as the character of each garden constructor. Only stimulation can be given, the rest was due to the inspiration of the artist.
Nevertheless there was a certain fundamental procedure. First the buildings had to be placed, especially the main hall with its companions, water and mountain. Thus one received mostly the main landscape space around which one could group the other spaces in further consequence. The buildings were joined at the end with enclosed or open walkways. They all formed the static structure of the imaginary painting, the "skeleton" of the garden.
" At the beginning I wanted to build only four or five rooms, and friends told me, where I should build a pavilion and where I should construct a summer house. I did not accept their proposals, but after a while they did not release me anymore, and it seemed in fact as if I should have a pavilion here and a summer house there. Still before I had finished the first phase, already new ideas forced on me and followed me to the most erroneous places, they sometimes came to me in the dream, and in front of my internal eye a new picture arose. So my interest increased from day to day, and I used to go into the garden already early in the morning and came back not until late at the evening...I worked further in summer and winter, in rain and sunshine, and neither the biting coldness nor the singeing sun could prevent me from that, because there was not any single day, at which I would not have been outside. Then I grasped my cushion and notice that my money was used up, and that annoyed me. But when I got there again, I wanted arrange stones and material only more and more. Two halls, three pavilions, four ambulatories, two towers and three dams...Where there was too much expanse, I add something , where it becomes too narrow, I remove something and where the things are too concentrated I expand it. It is like a good doctor that cures a patient in that giving him both, constructive and also abortient medicine. Or like a brilliant painter that does not approve any single wrong brushstroke during his work, or as a big author, who write essays and is not allowed in any inharmonious sentence. "
(Qi Biaojia, from Maggie Keswick, The Chinese Garden p129)
This text of Qi Biaojia shows very colorful, which important significance the arrangement of the buildings took in the gardens because also the settlement of the buildings depended very considerably on the inspiration of the garden constructor.
Nevertheless regard had to be taken of course onto the size of the garden plane. In particular in gardens with smaller spaces the water surface was mostly in the middle and the buildings were grouped along the space borders, whereas the lake was mostly in the middle. This had something to do with the attitude of the owner. As we heard, the garden owners were mostly officials who wanted to retire from the civil service and the severely Confucian structured society to live the life of a hermit in isolation. The arrangement of their living buildings, which are orientated to a concentric point, mostly the lake, should at least help them, to find their own middle and thus finally a connection to the cosmos.
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Layout of an interior-focused garden
But the buildings are connected also with each other in an amazing manner. As well as all of the natural "elements" of the garden are joined among themselves, also many buildings show invisible connections, where also the human plays an important role. The Chinese called this connection "Pair landscape", at which, as the expression already suggest, the landscape part is meant as a whole, and the buildings are, although not unimportant, a part of it.
But also within the buildings a frequent of the events occurs. A small follows a big room, a wide follows a narrow one, a formal follows a round and a bright a dark. This change of the apparent contrasts can refer on form, size, as well as on lighting conditions and have the purpose, to emphasize the properties of the several spaces. This method was mentioned "Yu Yang Xien", and meant that one must keep down the coming one in order to make it protrude more strikingly. If for example one reaches a big, formal room after a narrow, wound one, it appears suddenly considerably larger. Just the same as a bright chamber will appear still more brightly if one has paced a dark one before. This method was used often also, if one reaches from buildings into the main landscape space. Often a narrow, wound space, which is already mostly embossed by contrasts, leads through an exit to the landscape space, which suddenly expand before the eyes and appears in the contrast of the narrow and dark room such as a blossom suddenly opening itself, which sends the beauty of the whole world into the mind of the observer.
"Ting Yuan Shen Shen Shen Ji Xu"
(The garden is deep, even deeper, as deeply is it still?)
This old Chinese sentence hits the basic idea of the Chinese garden exactly because finally the constructors wanted to represent the Dao in their gardens, the “Way” with its continuous change of the aspects and its infinite size and in order to achieve that, they had to let the space appear unlimited.
As we heard, the Chinese artists did not know the western perspective only with one vanishing point. Rather they painted in the so-called "bird's-eye view", which one could term as “non-perspective” or “reversed-perspective” without a horizon.
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Birds-eye-view of “The garden of the fisherman`s net”, from R. Steward Johnston, Scholar Gardens of China p113
And exactly in this bird's-eye view they also planned their gardens. That means finally, that the entire garden area was overlaid with one big landscape picture, and subdivided therefore into numerous sectors, which all had several visual and literary themes.
As well as in a landscape picture, where all single spaces or sections were separated by the void, also the garden spaces were subdivided by it. The emptiness which had in the landscape picture the task to let a space change fluently into the other one was also used in the garden as a connection as well as a separation. And this emptiness is represented in the gardens mainly by white washed walls, which ones could be also part of buildings. Such walls are able to change their appearance in the course of the day or that of the year. As well as the emptiness they could contain all 10000 things.
In the case of certain light, walls can appear as solidly as mountains, at other light they can disappear apparently almost completely. Then they recede into an immense space and ones only can see the dark brick covering, which, like a wavelike motion dragon, follows the natural unevenness of the terrain.