The main structural elements that the Chinese garden included were always water and stone-the embodiment of yin and yang, female and male, dark and light principles.
Water is a symbol of eternal movement and eternity in general, a continuous flow of time, as well as a” mirror of the universe ” that can reflect the objects of existence. In this regard, water was necessarily present in the form of a stream or waterfall, as well as in the form of a pond or backwater, that is, in moving and static forms.
According to the ideas of geomancy, water in its standing hypostasis is a store of qi (positive energy), and moving water is a conductor of this energy. With the right combination of these structures, from the point of view of feng Shui, it had a very favorable effect on the energy balance of the visitor.
Gazebos and pavilions were placed in such a way that they were reflected in the water as a separate composition. The roofs of the pavilions were arranged so that the rain ran down the slopes like a waterfall.
Reservoirs also served a purely practical function: water was collected from streams for the needs of the economy, ponds were used for boating and breeding ornamental fish (their contemplation was elevated to the level of a special art that positively affects the development of sensuality).
According to feng shui, water is a necessary element at the entrance to the house. Therefore, residential buildings were placed near a river, pond or stream. The line of paths and bridges was always complicated and broken, which guided the qi and promoted its proper circulation. For example, if a bamboo tree grew behind the gazebo, and a stream flowed between it and the gazebo, skirting it – this was an ideal element in feng shui. Its purpose is to neutralize the bad influence of the surrounding cliffs, rocks and external water flows. It is the plants behind the gazebo (house) and running fresh water in front of them – the best way to properly distribute the qi. The tortuosity of the riverbed is also not accidental: straight lines and angles are disastrous for qi.
Another essential component that included the Chinese garden was stone. It was perceived at the same time as a man-made and natural material, created by nature and processed by man. The correct arrangement of the stone objects helped to introduce space into the energy cycle of the cosmos. Oddly enough, in the history of Chinese culture, the production of works of art from jade and jasper was the work of folk craftsmen, while simple cobblestones decorated the most famous Chinese gardens found their place in the works of famous artists.
The aesthetic perception of stones is determined by the concept of the Tao to liken itself in simplicity to an ordinary stone and the Confucian desire to improve oneself, brought to the sophistication of jade and jasper.
Attention was paid primarily to the quirkiness of the form, considering it the embodiment of cosmic life force. According to the rules of geomancy, stones were divided into five types, corresponding to the five primary elements (metal, fire, water, earth and air). The combination of different forms was carefully thought out. Separate treatises were created about this. There were porous, nostrils, holes, wrinkled and oblong, “growing into the ground”, “running away”, “running to each other”.
The ways of placing the stones were also very diverse. Taking into account the similarity of landscape art and landscape design, the principle of placing objects according to the type of “landscape scroll” was used very often.
Experts especially appreciated the stone’s “permeability”, which allows you to feel its thickness; “thinness”, which leaves the impression of grace and lightness; “openness”, which allows you to appreciate the beauty of holes and voids. The properties of objects were revealed depending on the place and method of setting: in a group or singly, as an addition to an architectural structure, or independently, whether in interaction with water or as an independent aesthetic unit.
The boulders recovered from Lake Taihu were especially prized. Their cost can be compared with the prices of European antique statues. Spurting from the bottom of the lake, the springs drilled through the rocks and created voids inside them. This immediately raised their cost and aesthetic value, because the Chinese were not interested in the stone as such, but in the voids inside it, the so-called “trapped” space. The complex configuration of voids created a resonant and energetically filled space. The find was touched, stroked, and tapped with a special stick, as each of them had its own unique sound. The stones in the Chinese garden were the embodiment of an important aesthetic principle of painting, and the master’s painting, as the Chinese said, should “sound”, that is, cause sound associations in the viewer.
Stones from Taihu Lake were usually placed in the middle of small reservoirs. Stone is masculine yang, water is feminine, yin. Together, they made up the Great Limit, the epitome of the game of metamorphosis. For the same purpose, black (yin) and red (yang) fish were bred in ponds. Often, single blocks were installed “on the contrary” – with the base up, so that the lower part was narrower and lighter than the upper one. In the understanding of the Chinese, it was possible to go beyond the celestial world by seeing things mirrored, and such an “overturned” setting represented exactly the “pre-celestial” state of a material object.
Silicon boulders from Kunshan (Jiangsu), as well as dark stalactites from the caves of Yingzhou (Guangdong), were also popular. The first was attributed to the ability to give heat to plants, while the second could absorb copper. They were used to create artificial mountains near a secluded pavilion.
The Chinese garden is a game of metamorphoses and a series of transformations, which symbolizes the fullness and diversity of life. Here you can often encounter the likening of cliffs to clouds, as a statement of the idea of the unity of the world. Landscape artists often painted clouds as rocky landscapes-mirages, and mountain peaks – as low clouds. The landscape designers were guided by the same principle.