In Kirk Johnsons article entitled English Landscape Gardens he said that this is not surprising since literature was more important in English culture than the visual arts. The essay of Sir William Temple entitled Upon the Gardens of Epicurus, which was written in 1685 and first published in 1692, praised what the author imagined as the Chinese Manner of garden style. This essay did not really caused the Europeans to imitate Chinese gardens but it helped them to open their minds to the possibility of creating gardens that differs from the formal tradition (Johnson, 1999).
The Chinese imperial garden is basically built in two kinds of styles: first is a large park that is usually with a lake and islands; and the second, a small park which is more intimate because buildings are placed much closer with each other. These gardens are made to traditionally intend to depict the natural landscape of mountains and rivers. Viewed from within the garden, the Chinese design gardens as settings for everyday life. In these gardens, plants are treated in a naturalistic way and often included a water feature.
One of the famous traditional Chinese imperial gardens is the Qianlong Garden situated at the Palace of Peace and Longevity in the Eastern section of the Former Imperial Palace which was constructed in the late 18th century in China during the reign of Emperor Qianlong What made this garden unique from other Chinese garden is that despite its limited space all the man-made sceneries built, played a role in beautifying the garden thus creating a harmonious whole. This garden features the famous Chinese rock formations which is the main feature that the Chinese was known for.
This naturalistic view was the way that the Chinese depict their garden. Buildings where placed in this garden but due to the fact that there was a limited space of the building, the Chinese landscape designers worked on it in a more compact manner as it would not obliterate the naturalistic view of the landscape. The Kinning Lake which is almost three-fourths of the entire landscape forms part of the entire area of the Qianlong garden. This serpentine lake was transformed and beautified to depict the natural view and natural landscape that the Chinese landscape architects are known for.
The English got their ideas of Chinese gardens essentially from the patterns on imported porcelain, lacquer work and silk where they got glimpses of gardens laid out without order or disposition. With these porcelains and other products, the inspiration and ideas was then set leading the new landscape architects to form works similar to the Chinese. The new style of gardening within the English landscape, pioneered by designers like William Kent, Lancelot (Capability) Brown and Humphrey Repton, swept away almost all the remnants of previous formally patterned styles.
Looking at the masterpieces of these famous landscape designers, it is undeniable that the Chinese influence in gardening made its way to England during this period. One of the famous eighteenth century landscape garden created by Lancelot Brown is the Stowe Landscape Garden, where he had been the head gardener for ten years. This garden evolved from the traditional Baroque style to that which features the famous serpentine style of Brown. Similar to the Qianlong Garden of China where rocks are piled into hills and winding paths form a maze, Brown recreated a Grecian Valley that is an abstract composition of landform and woodland.
This was an unusual composition as compared to the traditional English style that is based on symmetry and proportion. When Brown incorporated the maze form or winding paths, the traditional English style of gardens was revolutionized. The use of buildings in landscapes was the most seen influence by the Chinese. Since the English got their ideas merely on pictures rather than actual observations of Chinese gardens and the lack of detailed information, these garden buildings were quite misunderstood in Europe and tended to be over powering.
The Chinese merely used garden buildings within relatively confined areas combining practicality with aesthetics. As buildings were added in the garden setting, some of the pleasing features of the Chinese architecture such as the parsols, pavilions, and bridges were adopted and mixed with the native English work. The Chinese parasols were also in fashion, these are small temples found mixed within the gardens. Later on, there were bridges that were constructed, since most Chinese influence includes small rivers, as they would depict a natural look, bridges were constructed as part of the general garden design.
The Stowe Garden with its winding lake similar to the Qianlong Garden also has a bridge nestled in it as against the more traditional symmetry and with only fountains to incorporate water. Another Chinese influence to English garden is the use of Chinese ornamental details. These parsols or mini temples are incorporated on the serpentine lake which particularly depicts the Chinese influence. The more traditional style was then only benches and chairs, which is more likely symmetrical as against the naturalistic way because these mini temples serves as a place of relaxation since they are found near the lake.
These are some of the things that the Chinese influenced the English gardens; however, they still do not fully depict the Chinese style but merely form part of the grand design. These ornamental details served to remind Europeans of the eighteenth century of the wondrous land of the East that during that time it was almost impossible to find any one of the larger European gardens that had not at least one Chinese pavilion. Chinese influence may be visible, but the main inspiration of these gardens came from old European paintings (Johnson, 1999).
Be that as it may, there are still things that are incorporated in the English design that mainly depict the Chinese influence as part of the general inspiration.
Gothien, Marie Louise. The English Landscape Garden: Chinese influence on English gardens. History of Garden Art. 1928. Johnson, Kirk. English Landscape Gardens. 9 July 1999. Retrieved from http://www. suite101. com/article. cfm/garden_design/21925/3> Shouyi, Chen. The Chinese Garden in Eighteenth Century England. Tien Hsia Monthly 2 (1936): 321-339. China: Love and Loathing Acquisition of Stuff; Devaluation of Culture. Influence of the Chinese