Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Conference abstract: “A critical history of rockwork in Chinese gardens”

Garden of a Piece of Rock (Pian Shi Shan Fang), April 2013. Credit: L.Gu, all rights reserved.

New approaches in Chinese garden history, conference abstract

19th June 2015, at the University of Sheffield

Liyuan Gu, University of Sheffield, PhD Candidate

“A critical history of rockwork in Chinese gardens”

Rockwork plays a significant role in Chinese gardens. It appears as one of the features that at first instance is difficult to understand, but then starts to intrigue. There is considerable variation in rock formations in gardens, and the various techniques employed are not only revealing of the philosophy, but also of the era and region in which they were conceived. Construction techniques and appearance evolved over thousands of years. This paper aims to provide a critical review of the development of rockwork in Chinese garden by exploring how notions of aesthetics, religion and philosophy influenced fashions in the design of rockwork.
Chinese rockwork can be divided into three types according the construction materials----‘earth hill’, ‘stone rockery’ and ‘earth-stone rockery’. Additionally there are a variety of stones that were used in the construction, with Taihu rock and Yellow Stone being the two favourite choices. The choice of stones was usually directed by costs for initial acquisition and by transportation. The fashions in rockwork construction however were influenced by particularly mythology, Confucianism and Taoism. These contributed to notions of aesthetics as well as life, whereas policies of different dynasties affected size and format of gardens, and thereby the size of rockwork. Additionally the rise of specialized rockwork craftsmen in the Qing dynasty resulted in remarkable strides in the quality of design and construction of rockwork, with different schools emerging. The critical review of rockwork history has been conceived in order to inform conservation practice; this paper produces some of the initial findings relating to the historic research. 

See Liyuan's profile here.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Commented visit to Biddulph Grange - 18th June 2015

Biddulph Grange, taken by L.Gu, all rights reserved.

Guided visit to Biddulph Grange garden - 18th June 2015

As part of the "New approaches in Chinese garden history" conference, the Department of Landscape of the University of Sheffield is hosting a commented visit to the Victorian garden of Biddulph Grange, Staffordshire (National Trust).

Created by James Bateman from the 1840s, the garden displays a series of Italian, Egyptian, Chinese and Himalayan themes, as well as an outstanding collection of worldwide plants. In relation to our conference, the vision of a Chinese garden as well as the "Great wall of China" exhibited in the garden will be our primary focus.

There will be a prepared visit commentary, however speakers and delegates of the conference - as well as participants - will be encouraged to give their personal input. For example our speaker Emile de Bruijn has researched the garden and as to Bianca Rinaldi, she has insight into the 'chinoiserie' concept, whereas Georges Métailié could comment on the choice of plants. Students will be able to ask questions and all present will voice their reflections as the visit unfolds.

The coach will depart at 9.30am sharp from the Geography & Town and Regional Planning car park behind the Arts Tower (next to the Mushroom Lane bus 95 stop), University of Sheffield, Western Bank S10 2TN. We are aiming to return to Sheffield in the early afternoon after the commented visit, in time for all to take a break before the evening conference dinner (optional, on booking only) in town.

Delegate (£20) and student (£10) fees available.
You are more than welcome to join in directly at Biddulph Grange but will need to pay full fee for your coach seat if you need a space on the return coach.

National Trust page for Biddulph Grange HERE.
Bookings available HERE.

Enquiries such as mobility issues should be directed to Josepha Richard:

Conference abstract: Peter Blundell Jones

Xiangshan, outside Beijing. 2012. J.Richard, all rights reserved

New approaches in Chinese garden history, conference abstract

19th June 2015, at the University of Sheffield

We are pleased to announce that a new speaker has joined our conference:

Peter Blundell Jones, University of Sheffield

"The sense of direction in Imperial Chinese architecture"

There seems at first an obvious similarity between the long entry sequence of the Forbidden City set on a centre-line reserved for the Emperor and the axial layouts of European Palaces such as Versailles. The formality of Imperial Chinese Architecture might then seem to reflect a centralising tendency connected with the expression of power, helping justify a universal technique of axial planning further developed by the Beaux Arts and passed on to architectural academies across the world. Both involve hierarchical societies and require a capability to undertake large scale planning in a unified manner, and both involve a theatrical display of political and quasi-religious power. Both presume the rationality of orthogonal construction, underlined in the Chinese case by a discipline of carpentry. But similarities can be deceptive, resulting in a tendency to overlook differences, which sometimes are more significant than the parallels. One is the question of direction and progression, and what it might mean. 

See Peter's profile here
See his joint article with Jan Woudstra about Chinese gardens here.


Monday, 27 April 2015

Conference booking available now with a student fee

We are pleased to announce the student fees for the "New approaches in Chinese garden history" conference:

Visit to Biddulph Grange 18th June: £10
Conference Day 19th June: £20

Reminder for the delegate rate:

Visit to Biddulph Grange 18th June: £20
Conference Day 19th June: £40 (£50)

For both rates, the optional evening conference dinner can be booked for £22.


Booking website HERE

Josepha Richard

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Conference booking temporarily unavailable: repairs coming soon!

Dear all,

The "New Approaches in Chinese garden history" conference booking page is temporarily unavailable as we add student fees. We apologise for the issue and apologise for the inconvenience.

The issue should be solved Monday 27th April 2015.

Conference announcement here.

Best regards

Josepha Richard

Friday, 24 April 2015

Conference abstract: "Translating the Chinese garden: the Western invention of a canon"

Picture: G. Le Rouge. V7. Coupe d'une maison chinoise... Jardins anglo-chinois, Cahier 5, BNF, Paris. Copyright may apply.

New approaches in Chinese garden history, conference abstract

19th June 2015, at the University of Sheffield

 Bianca Maria Rinaldi, University of Camerino, Italy

"Translating the Chinese garden: the Western invention of a canon"

Categories are useful tools for studies in garden history. The Italian renaissance garden, the English landscape garden, the Picturesque garden, the anglo-chinois garden conjure up easily identifiable garden typologies, chronologically defined and geographically determined, and they convey immediately a precise visual image. The category of ‘Chinese Garden’ has blurred contours, with its inclusive denomination proposes the Chinese garden as invariable over time. However the definition of a Chinese garden aesthetic seems to be based exclusively on a study of the gardens of the Jiangnan region, regardless of any evolution and regional or stylistic differences.

The paper discusses how and when the concept of the ‘Chinese Garden’ was invented in the West. The gardens of China have been the focus of Western travelers’ accounts for centuries. During the eighteenth century, some authors, such as the Jesuit Jean-Denis Attiret, William Chambers and the Jesuit Pierre-Martial Cibot, made an intellectual effort to interpret and convey Chinese garden design principles to their Western readers; while later travellers, particularly British merchants and diplomats, simplified the design of Chinese gardens in their descriptions and synthesised a formal vocabulary.

Through an analysis of Western travellers’ accounts of the gardens of China, the paper will show that the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were crucial periods in the Western invention of a generic ‘Chinese Garden’. It will demonstrate that the restrictions of movement that Westerners experienced in Qing China, the limited numbers of gardens they were able to visit, as well as the memory of European chinoiserie, all encouraged simplistic interpretations, so that Chinese garden aesthetic was associated with recurring elements that seemed to convey a sort of shared image of Chineseness.

The paper argues that the Western idea of a general and generic Chinese Garden influenced the design of Chinese-style gardens built outside China from the 1970s onward, with their repertoire of typical elements and the lack of the complexity in spatial arrangement of the gardens in China.

See Bianca's academic profile at the University of Camerino here
Read a review of her book The Chinese Garden here.


Conference abstract: "The changing significance of the Chinese taste in British gardens"

Picture: The Chinese garden in Biddulph Grange, 2012. Credit: L.Gu, All rights reserved.

New approaches in Chinese garden history, conference abstract

19th June 2015, at the University of Sheffield


 Emile de Bruijn, National Trust, UK

"The changing significance of the Chinese taste in British gardens"

In the seventeenth century, China was held in high regard by Europeans as a nation with an ancient history, a sophisticated system of government and the ability to produce high quality goods. Europeans became familiar with Chinese imagery through the decoration of porcelain, lacquer and silk imported by the East India Companies. William Temple explicitly praised Chinese gardens for their subtle asymmetry and artful naturalism, in an essay published in 1685.

However, when British gardens did become more ‘natural’ in the second quarter of the eighteenth century, there was no obvious evidence of Chinese influence. Even so, the English landscape style was soon associated with China, as evident in the French term jardin anglo-chinois. The Chinese element was initially mainly expressed through fanciful garden pavilions. The conceit of the Chinese garden was brought indoors as well, with the use of Chinese wallpaper and chinoiserie furniture with pagoda and fretwork motifs. Only towards the end of the eighteenth century were actual Chinese plants introduced into British gardens.

In spite of the increasing material evidence of the real China, nineteenth century examples of Chinese taste in British gardens were if anything even more fantastical than their eighteenth-century forebears. The Chinese section in the garden at Biddulph Grange, for instance, is reminiscent of the Willow Pattern, a popular type of ceramics decoration created by British manufacturers.

Recent studies have emphasised the rhetorical nature of the chinoiserie style: how ‘China’ was used to express local and contemporary concerns and how the meaning of ‘China’ changed in response to European stylistic, social and intellectual developments. This paper will demonstrate how that rhetoric operated in British gardens between the middle of the seventeenth and the middle of the nineteenth century.

See Emile's professional Twitter account here.
See Emile's  Academia profile with a list of publications here.


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Conference abstract: “A response to Alison's quest after a Chinese grove”

Qufu, Kong's Forest, 2012. Credit: J.Richard, all rights reserved.


New approaches in Chinese garden history, conference abstract

19th June 2015, at the University of Sheffield

Lei Gao, NMBU, Norway

“A response to Alison's quest after a Chinese grove”

In the last two decades, the subject of Chinese garden studies has expanded enormously. It has gone from a situation where one person could be familiar with virtually everything that had been written on the topic in both Chinese and English to one where it would be impossible for an individual scholar to keep up with absolutely everything. One reason for this is the great expansion in Chinese-authored academic research (published in Chinese and English and also some other languages) consequent on the expansion of Chinese academia, and of the number of Chinese scholars working overseas, since the start of the reform era. Another important reason is the ‘turn’, in garden studies more generally, from a primarily aesthetic and art-historical to a more social-history focus, exemplified in Europe by scholars such as Denis Cosgrove and Tom Williamson. In Chinese garden studies a key text here was Craig Clunas’ Fruitful Sites (1996). As Chinese garden history has become a more accessible way to understand aspects of Chinese social and cultural history, it has been integrated into undergraduate courses on Chinese culture; moreover, as Chinese economic and ‘soft’ power has grown, more Chinese gardens have been created in the West, and thus general as well as academic understanding of the Chinese garden tradition has greatly increased.

See Lei Gao's profile on ResearchGate here
Follow this link to her paper on Garden heritage in Hongcun and Xidi.