Missouri Botanical Garden

Chinese Garden

A Frame and a Focus

Pavilion with willow
In traditional Chinese landscape painting, a tiny hut or pavilion almost always appears as the focal point of the composition, dwarfed by vast, precipitous mountains and waterfalls. The pavilion, or t'ing, represents humankind's place in the universe, balanced between heaven and earth. The view from the t'ing becomes part of the garden, whether it is a panorama of a mountain gorge or a tree glimpsed over a wall. This "borrowed landscape" makes the garden seem larger, a part of the natural world around it.


Like a landscape painted on a silken scroll or screen, a Chinese garden is experienced as a series of scenes. They are discovered in sequence, rather than viewed as a pattern laid out from above. Often Chinese gardens resemble a labyrinth of walled spaces that subtly manipulate perspective, making small spaces appear infinite.

An Ancient Tradition
A Frame and a Focus
Mountains and Water
Plants as Symbols

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