A Cultural History of Gardens in China and Japan





This seminar provides an introduction to the role of gardens in Chinese and Japanese culture. Students examine the history of individual gardens and explore the aesthetic, political, and social environment of their owners. The seminar focuses upon the connection between gardens and ideals of paradise, reclusion, authority, political representation, Confucian virtue, recreation, and self-cultivation through the arts and meditation. A garden’s design is determined by aesthetic and horticultural considerations, but equally important to an understanding of East Asian design choices are cosmological, geomantic, and religious convictions, as well as allusions to historical and legendary events and to famous personages and their literary heritage. Hence, paintings, prints, and a variety of literary works (including treatises on gardening) serve as guides. The study of extant gardens concentrates on examples in Suzhou, Beijing, and Kyoto. 3 credits.