The Craft of Gardens: The Classic Chinese Text on Garden Design

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Shanghai Press, Apr 10, 2012 - Gardening - 144 pages
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With dozens of stunning photographs, this modern translation of a Classic text is a masterpiece of classical Chinese gardening.

Ji Cheng's great work on garden design, the Yuan Ye or Craft of Gardens, was originally published around 1631 and is the earliest manual of landscape gardening in the Chinese tradition. This is the first complete English translation of Ji Cheng's seminal work.

This Chinese gardening book is based on J Cheng's notes and experiences from his career as a garden designer, which he discusses at some length in his introduction> Since architecture is an integral part of the Chinese garden, much of the book is taken up with the design of different types of buildings and the integration of architecture with nature in the garden. Ji Cheng explains the religious and aesthetic principles underlying garden design and the appropriate emotional response to various effects. he then offers a down-to-earth series of instructions about the requirements of different types of sites, building layouts, architectural features, paving, the construction of artificial mountains, selection of rocks, and the use of natural scenery.

This delightful book provides not only insights into Chinese gardening but also a unique perspective on Chinese culture and society in the late Ming dynasty. Full notes by the translator explain obscure points and introduce relevant aspects of Chinese culture, while an introduction by Maggie Keswick sets the book firmly in its historical context. Illustrations include not only Ji Cheng's original diagrams but also historical paintings and contemporary photographs of a number of outstanding gardens in the part of East China where Ji Cheng lived and worked.

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About the author (2012)

Ji Cheng, born in 1579, was a practicing garden designer in the first half of the 17th century. He designed gardens for several well-known individuals in the late Ming Dynasty, who supported the original publication of this book, summing up his life's work and experience.

Alison Hardie, a graduate of Oxford and Edinburgh Universities, began to translate The Craft of Gardens when she was working for the Hong Kong trading firm Jardine Matheson, in the 1980s. Later she wrote her doctoral thesis on Chinese garden design in the late Ming, and is now a Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Leeds. She is internationally known as a scholar of Chinese garden history.

Zhong Ming, who took the photographs for The Craft of Gardens, is an artist whose work has been exhibited in many countries including China, France, the UK, Japan, and Sweden. He trained as an oil painter and first came to prominence as China opened up after the Cultural Revolution, his portrait of the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre causing a sensation in 1979. He now divides his time between China, France and the UK.

Maggie Keswick, who originally inspired and supported this translation of The Craft of Gardens, grew up in Shanghai and Hong Kong, where her father ran the trading company Jardine Matheson. Based on her personal experience of traditional Chinese gardens, she published The Chinese Garden: History, Art and Architecture in 1978; it remains an indispensable introduction to the subject.

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