Page images

However, I mufr, own to you, without pretending to decide which of the two ought to have the Preference, that the Manner of Building in this Country pleafes me very much. Since my Refidence in China, my Eyes and Tafte are grown a little Chlnefe. And, between Friends, is not the Duchefs of Bourbon's Houfe oppofite to the Tuilleries, extremely pretty? Yet that is only one Story, and a good deal in the Cbinefe Manner. Every Country has its Tafte and Cuftoms. The Beauty of our Architecture cannot be difputed; nothing is more grand and majeftic. I own too that our Houfes are well difpofed. We follow the Rules of Uniformity, and Symmetry, in all the Parts of them. . There is nothing in them unmatched, or difplaced; every Part anfwers its oppofite; and there's an exact Agreement in the whole. But then there is this Symmetry, this beautiful Order and Difpofition too in China; and particularly in the Emperor's Palace at Pekin, that I was fpeaking of in the Beginning of this Letter. The Palaces of the Princes and great Men, the Courts of Juftice, and the Houfes of the better Sort of People, are generally in the fame Tafte.

But in their Pleafure-houfes, they rather choofe [g] a beautiful Diforder, and a wandering as far as poffible from all the Rules of Art. They go entirely

fg] The Author of this Letter feems here to hare formed his Opinion only from the Garden in which he was employed; for this is not univerfally the cafe in the Pleafure-houfes of the Emperor of China. I hare lately feen fome Prints of another of his Gardens, (brought from

on on this Principle, " That what they are to'reprefent "there, is a natural and wild View of the Country; "a rural Retirement, and not a Palace formed ac«' cording to all the Rules of Art." Agreeably to which, I have not yet obferved any Two of the little Palaces in all the grand Inclofure which are alike, though fome of them are placed at fuch confiderable Diftances from one another. You would think that they were formed upon the Ideas of fo many different foreign Countries; or that they were all built at random, and made up of Parts not meant for one another. When you read this, you will be apt to imagine fuch Works very ridiculous; and that they muft have a very bad Effect on the Eye; but was you to fee them, you would find it quite otherwife; and would admire the Art with which all this Irregularity is conduced. All is in good Tafte; and fo managed, that its Beauties appear gradually one after another. To enjoy them as one ought, you fhould view every Piece by itfelf; and you would find enough to amufe you for a long while, and to fatisfy all your Curiofity.

Befide the Palaces themfelves (though I have called them little, in comparifon of the whole) are very far from being inconfiderable Things. I faw them building one in the fame Inclofura, laft Year, for

that Kingdom, and which will very Coon he published here,) in which the Difpofition of the Ground, Water, and Plantations, is indeed quite irregular; but the Houfes, Bridges, and Fences, are all of a regular Kind. Thofe Prints will give the trueft Idea we Con have of the Chititft Manner of laying out Pleafure-grounds.

G 2 one one of the Princes of the Blood; which coft him near [/>] Two Hundred Thoufand Pounds; without reckoning any thing for the Furniture and Ornaments of the Infide; for they were a Prefent to him from the Emperor.

I muft add one Word more, in relation to the Variety which reigns in thefe Pleafure-houfes. It is not only to be found in their Situations, Views, Difpofitions, Sizes, Heights, and all the other general Points; but alfo in their lefler Parts, that go to the compofing of them. Thus, for inftance, there is no People in the World who can fhew fuch a Variety of Shapes and Forms, in .their Doors and Windows, as the Chinefe. They have fome round, oval, fquare, and all Sorts of angled Figures; fome, in the Shape of Fans; others in thofe of Flowers, Vafes, Birds, Beafts, and Fifhes; in fhort, of all Forms whether regular or irregular.

It is only here too, I believe, that one can fee fuch Porticos, as I am going to defcribe to you. They ferve to join fuch Parts of the Buildings in the fame Palace, as lie pretty wide from one another. Thefe are fometimes raifed on Columns only, on the Side toward the Houfe; and have Openings, of different Shapes, through the Walls on the other Side; and fometimes have only Columns on both

[4] The Original fays, Soixante Ouanes; and adds in a Note, that one Ouane is worth Ten Thoufand Ja'eh; and each Jail is worth Seven Livres and a Half; fo that Sixty Ouancs make Four Millions and a Half of Livres; which is equal to 196,875 Poundi Sterling.

.Sides; as in all fuch as lead from any of the Palaces,. to their open Pavilions for taking the frefh Air. But what is fo fingular in thefe Porticos, or Colonnades, is, that they feldom run on in ftrait Lines; but make an Hundred Turns and Windings: Sometimes by the Side of a Grove, at others, behind a Rock, and at others again along the Banks of their Rivers or Lakes. Nothing can be conceived more delightful; they have fuch a rural Air as is quite ravifhing and inchanting.

You will certainly conclude from all I have told you, that this Pleafure-place muft have coft immenfe Sums of Money; and indeed there is no Prince, but fuch a one as is Matter of fo vaft a State as the Emperor of China is, who could either afford fo prodigious an Expence, or accomplifh fuch a Number of great Works in fo little Time; for all this was done in the Compafs of Twenty Years. ]t was the Father of the prefent Emperor who began it; and his Son now only adds Conveniences and Ornaments to it, here and there.

But there is nothing fo furprifing or incredible, in this; for befides that the Buildings are moft commonly but of one Story, they employ fuch prodigious Numbers of Workmen, that every thing is carried on very faft. Above Half the Difficulty is over, when they have got their Materials upon the Spot. They fall immediately to difpofing them in Order; and, in a few Months the Work is finifhed. They look almoft like thofe fabulous Palaces, which are

G 3 far' faid to be raifed by Inchantment, all at once, in fome beautiful Valley, or on the Brow of fome Hill.

This whole Inclofure is calied Yven-ming Yven, the Garden of Gardens; or the Garden by way of Eminence. It is not the only one that belongs to the Emperor; he has Three others, of ihe fame Kind; but none of them fo large, or fo beautiful, as this. Jn one of thefe lives the Emprefs his Mother, and ail her Court. It was built by the prefent Emperor's Grandfather [/'] Cang-by; and is called Ichang lebun yven, or the Garden of perpetual Spring. The Pleafure-places of the Princes and Grandees are, in Little, what thofe of the Emperor are in Great.

Perhaps you will afk me, "Why all this longDe"fcription ? Should not I rather have drawn Plans of "this magnificent Place, and fent them to you?" To have done that, would have taken me up at leaft Three Years, without touching upon any thing elfe; ,whereas I have not a Moment to fpare; and a.m forced to borrow the Time in which I now write to you, from my Hours of Reft. To which ycu may add, that for fuch a Work, it would be neceffary for me to have full Liberty of going^ntp any Part of the Gardens whenever I pleafed, and to ftay there as long as I pleafed; which is quite impracticable here. 'Tig very fortunate for m,e, that I had got the little Know-: lecige of Painting that I have; for, without this, I fliould have be9ii in the fame Caje with feveral other

£;] Cong-hj began his Reign in 1660; his SonVongtcbixg fuccfedcd 1722; and bis Crandlon Kiin-hxg in 1735.

« PreviousContinue »