Week 1: Mountains, water and caves
We begin by reviewing the geography of China and the notion of the garden as a symbolic landscape. From this foundation, we will discover the origins of the deep reverence for nature in Chinese culture and contemplate its expression in art.
Week 2: Farm, paradise and monastery
Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism each contributed to the development and appearance of Chinese gardens. Notions of simplicity and refinement in balance, and rationale of the garden as a place for self-cultivation, renewal and experiencing unity with nature emerged from these philosophies.
Week 3: Vital spirit and harmonious vibration
Gardens embody “the sentiment of the poet and the eye of the painter,” portray mood, evoke a spiritual atmosphere, and allude to great moments in aesthetic history. We explore the practices of poetry, painting, and calligraphy as they relate to and intertwine with garden culture.
Week 4: Parties, banquets and contemplation
Historic Chinese gardens were outdoor living spaces, where owners held court, entertained guests, curried favour with officials, played games, read, drank tea, chanted verse, recited poetry and painted. Far from solely functioning as private retreats, gardens were lively, noisy places full of people.
Week 5: Avoiding the obvious and seeking the unexpected
Garden design begins with the environment and the relationship between style, form, colour and texture. Ideally, natural elements and architecture combine with a sense of unforced accumulation. This session will be held at The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver’s Chinatown to help experience these qualities in person.
Week 6: Symmetry and disorder
We will consider alternative expressions of Chinese gardens, including historic European interpretations, restoration projects, and Chinese gardens constructed outside of China. Finally, we conclude our exploration by revisiting the private retreats, public parks, temple precincts, and imperial park-preserves that are expressions of the Chinese garden.