{eastern garden design - part four: architecture}

Being married to an Architect I've come to (forced to?) appreciate the importance of architecture in our environment and how it can either enhance or detract from the beauty of the surrounding landscape. Certainly within Chinese garden design architecture is fundamental, it is the primary element around which everything else is designed.

The gardens are designed so as they are not revealed all at once, rather in a more picturesque fashion, whereby vistas are created from within pavilions, or as you stroll along the covered corridors and meandering pathways, or through a decorative port hole in the wall. By containing the garden before expanding to reveal its entirety it enhances the enjoyment, as you are constantly surprised by the unfolding beauty before you and curious about what else is contained around the corner.
A view from outside the garden - a preview of what lies within!
The highly decorative and detailed waterside pavilions are generally modestly and simply decorated inside. They provide a place for quiet observation and contemplation of the garden, often providing inspiration for poetry and painting. The covered corridors offer the ability to wander the gardens no matter the weather, while the zig-zagging pathways are intentionally used to encourage you to slow down and enjoy the journey through the garden, it is also believed they ward off evil spirits! Unlike other pavements which do not encourage you to look at your feet, here they are given special treatment, with intricately designed and laid paving, adding another level of beauty to the garden.

'Lenient Jade Pavillion' - one of the many waterside pavilions
Highly decorative 'Dragon Wall'
to the left of the pavilion
A covered zig-zagging corridor with views across the central lake and garden
Decorative 'port hole' window to garden beyond
Beautiful and highly decorative paving,
with zig-zagging path in background
Closer view of the decorative pebble pathway
'Moon Gates', circular openings within walls, add a sense of anticipation and heightened interest to step through and discover what  is beyond. They also act as a wonderful frame to the landscape on either side. Historically they were only found in the garden's of the very wealthy.

Looking through the 'Moon Gate' to the garden beyond
The thing which struck me the most about the gardens was that I felt completely at ease and relaxed as soon as I entered. The walls act as a security blanket from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. You certainly get the sense that the gardens fulfil their objective of providing a place of shelter and spiritual utopia for you to connect with nature and your inner-self. Everything slows down in the gardens, your mind relaxes and you become conscious of any tension melting away.

The walls from outside the garden. Within lies complete sanctuary.
I thoroughly enjoyed my meander through the gardens, even finding myself doing a second turn inadvertently. You seem to see something different each time, be it from a different angle or by choosing to take a different path. The garden acts as a reminder that we should enjoy the journey as much as the destination!!

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