Missouri Botanical Garden

Chinese Garden

An Ancient Tradition

Chinese Garden Landscape design has been of great significance in Chinese culture for more than 2,500 years. Emperors have bankrupted their dynasties building vast gardens, and the design of even the simplest garden blends the traditional arts of landscaping with painting, poetry, and calligraphy to a remarkable degree.

In Taoist philosophy, the essence of everything in nature is c'hi or spiritual harmony with the universe. Landscape design, filtered through centuries of Confucianism, Taoism, and later Buddhism, seeks to create a special haven separate from the distractions of everyday life, places where people can experience "an eternal moment of suspended time when man and nature seem in perfect accord." (from The Chinese Garden, by Maggie Keswick)


It is often said that Chinese gardens are built, not planted. Although Chinese landscaping inspired 18th century Europeans to transform their rigidly symmetrical formal parterres into a more naturalistic style, traditional Chinese gardens can bewilder Western eyes. The Chinese use very few plants in their gardens, and much of the space is enclosed by elaborate walls, pavilions, bridges, and decorative pavements.


The Grigg garden is built in the style of the southern provinces where Nanjing is located. These "private" gardens, traditionally built as retreats by gentlemen or scholars, are distinguished by monochromatic colors of grey, white, black, and reddish brown, very different from the elaborate gilded roofs and brilliant reds and greens of structures in Imperial gardens in northern China.

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

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