Ian Henderson talk on China

22/10/2014

Ian Henderson, Lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture, Unitec, gave a fascinating talk about  visiting the Scholar Gardens of Suzhou on a recent trip to China.

Suzhou is the most significant city for Southern Chinese scholar gardens. It has a desirable reputation, evidenced by the expression: “Heaven above, Suzhou and Hangzhou, below”.

 Like a lot of people, Ian had found Chinese gardens difficult to comprehend based on photos of them. As with all gardens, much is revealed by visiting them. The scholar gardens are smaller than the imperial gardens of the north, but are very intense. Ian described five of the most recognized Suzhou gardens, all designated UNESCO cultural sites. Most of what we see of them are from the Ming (1368-1644) and Ching (1644-1912) dynasties.

 Their make-up is largely rocks, water and plants in balanced proportions, with spatial characteristics of journey and points of rest in the many pavilions. These gardens were not perceived by their builders in isolation, and Ian attempted to weave together their complex relationship with painting, poetry and calligraphy, as well as references to real mountain landscapes.