Page images
PDF
EPUB

terials, and Ornaments. It is in these, and in the great Variety which the Chinese shew in their Buildings, that I admire the Fruitfulness of their Invention; and am almost tempted to own, that we are quite poor and barren in Comparison of them.

Their Eyes are so accustomed to their own Archite&ure, that they have very little Taste for ours. May I tell you what they say when they speak of it, or when they are looking over the Prints of some of our most celebrated Buildings? The Height and Thickness of our Palaces amazes them. They look upon our Streets. as so many Ways hollowed into terrible Mountains; and upon our Houses, as Rocks point- . ing up in the Air, and full of Holes like Dens. of Bears and other wild Beasts. Above all, our different Stories, piled up so high one above another, seem quite intolerable to them ; and they cannot conceive how we can bear to run the Risk of breaking our Necks, so commonly, in going up such a Number of Steps as is necessary to climb up to the fourth and fifth Floors.'' 6c Undoubted“ ly, (faid the Emperor Cang-by, whilft he was “ looking over some Plans of our European “ Houses,) this Europe must be a very small and “ pitiful Country ; since the Inhabitants cannot “ find Ground enough to spread out their Towns “ but are obliged to live up thus in the Air.?. As for us, we think otherwise, and have Reason to . do fo.9, 19. . ..

However, I must own to you, without pretending to decide which of the two ought to have:

D 4 - . the

the Preference, that the Manner of Building in. this Country pleases me very much. Since my Residence in China,my Eyes and Taste are grown a little Chinese. And, between Friends, is not the Dutchess of Bourbon's House opposite to the Tuilleries, extremely pretty? Yet that is only one Story, and a good deal in the Chinese Manner. Every Country has its Taste and Customs. The Beauty of our Architecture. cannot be disputed ; nothing is more grand and majeftic. I own too that our Houses are well disposed. We follow the Rules of Uniformity, and Symmetry, in all the Parts of them. There is nothing in them un matched, or displaced; every Part answers its opposite ; and there's an exa& Agreement in the whole. But then there is this Symmetry, this beautiful Order and Disposition too in China ; and particularly in the Emperor's Palace at Pekin, that. I was speaking of in the Beginning of this Letter. The Palaces of the Princes and great Men, the Courts of Justice, and the Houses of the better Sort of People, are generally in the same Taste.

But in their Pleasure-houses, they rather choose [g] a beautiful Disorder, and a wandering as far

as

[8] The Author of this Letter seems here to have formed his Opinion only from the Garden in which he was employed; for this is not universally the case in the Pleasure-houses of the Emperor of China. I have lately seen some Prints of another of his Gardens, (brought from that Kingdom, and which will very soon be pubfished here,) in which the Disposition of the Ground, Water, and Plantations, is indeed quite irregular ; but the Houses, Bridges, and Fences, are all of a regular

Kind.

Y

as possible from all the Rules of Art. They go entirely on this Principle, " That what they are " to represent there, is a natural and wild View “ of the Country; a. rural Retirement, and not: " a Palace formed according to all the Rules of « Art.” Agreeably to which, I have not yet obą served any Two of the little Palaces in all the grand. Inclosure which are alike, though some of them are placed at such considerable Distances from one; another. You would think that they were formed upon thé Ideas of so 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 such Works very ridiculous ; and that they musthave a very bad Effect on the Eye ; but were you to see them, you would find it quite otherwise; and would admire the Art with which all this Ir-i regularity is conducted. All is in good Taste; and so managed, that its Beauties appear gradually, one after another. To enjoy them as one ought, you should view every Piece by itself; and you would find enough to amuse you for a long while, and to satisfy all your Curiosity.. .

Beside the Palaces themselves (though I have called them little, in comparison of the whole); are very far from being inconsiderable Things. I. saw them building one in the same Inclosure, laft: Year, for one of the Princes of the Blood , which :

[ocr errors]

Kind. Those Prints will give the truest Idea we can
have of the Chinese Manner of laying out: Pleasure
grounds.
D 5

coft

cost him near [b]. Two Hundred Thousand Pounds; without reckoning any thing for the Furniture and Ornaments of the Inside ; for they were a Present to him from the Emperor.“ 1:

1 I must add one Word more, in relation to the Variety which reigns in these Pleasure-houses. It is not only to be found in their Situations, Views, Dispositions... Sizes, Heights, and all the other general Points, but also in their lesser Parts, that go to the composing of them. Thus, for instance, there is no People in the World who can fhew such a Variety of Shapes and Forms, in their Doors and Windows, as the Chinese. They have fome round, oval, square, and all Sorts of angled Figures;;fome, in the Shape of Fans ; others, in those of Flowers, Vases, Birds, Beasts, and Fishes; in short, of all Forms whether regular or irregular.

It is only here too, I believe, that one can see such Porticos, as I am going to describe to you. They serve to join such Parts of the 'Buildings in the fame Palace, as lie pretty wide from one ano' ther. These are fometimes raised on Columns only, on the Side toward the House ; and have, Openings, of different Shapes, through the Walls on the other Side ; and sometimes have only Columns on both Sides ; as in all such as lead from

[ocr errors]

[6] The Original says, Soixante Ouanes ; and adds in. Note, that one Ouane is worth Ten Thousand Faëls; and each Jaël is worth Seven Livres and a Half; fo. that Sixty Ouanes makes Four Million, and a Half of. Livres, which is equal to 196,875 Pounds Sterling. i

any

any of the Palaces, to their open Pavilions for taking the fresh Air. But what is fo fingular in these Porticos, or. Colonnades, is, that they feldom run on in strait Lines; but make an Hundred Turns and Windings ; Sometimes by the Side of a Grove, at others, behind a Rock, and at 0– thers again along the Banks of their Rivers or Lakes. :: Nothing can be conceived more delights ful ; they have such a rural Air as is quite ravish ing and inchanting. ii.,.. . '' .. . You will certainly conclude from all I have told you, that this Pleasure-place must have coft immense Sums of Money'; and indeed there is no Prince, but such a one as is Master of fo vafta State as the Emperor of China is, who could either afford so prodigious an Expence, or accom, plish such a Number of great Works in so little Time; for all this was done in the Compass of Twenty Years. It was the Father of the present Emperor who began it; and his Son now, only adds Conveniences and Ornaments to it, here and there.

But there is nothing so furprising or incredible, in this; for besides that the Buildings are most commonly but of one. Story, they employ such prodigious Numbers of Workmen, that every thing is carried on very fast. Above Half the Difficulty is over, when they have got their Materials upon the Spot, They fall immediately to dilposing them in Order ; and, in a few Months the Work is finished. They look almost like those. fabulous Palaces, which are said to be raised by

Inthant.

« PreviousContinue »