By Craig Clunas
Gardens are websites that may be at one and a similar time well-known artworks and priceless items of actual property. because the first account in English to be entirely in response to modern chinese language resources, this cutting edge, superbly illustrated booklet grounds the practices of garden-making in Ming Dynasty China (1368-1644) firmly within the social and cultural historical past of the day. Who owned gardens? Who visited them? How have been they represented in phrases, in work, and in visible tradition regularly, and what meanings did those representations carry at diverse degrees of chinese language society? How did the discourse of gardens intersect with different discourses equivalent to these of aesthetics, agronomy, geomancy, and botany? by means of analyzing the gardens of town of Suzhou from a couple of varied angles, Craig Clunas offers a wealthy photograph of a fancy cultural phenomenon, one who used to be of an important value to the self-fashioning of the Ming elite. Drawing on a variety of fresh paintings in cultural thought, the writer offers for the 1st time a ancient and materialist account of chinese language backyard tradition, and replaces huge generalizations and orientalist myth with a resounding photograph of the garden's position in social existence.
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Additional info for Fruitful Sites: Garden Culture in Ming Dynasty China
7 5 He shows in particular the political and commercial considerations underlying the increased attention paid to estate silviculture in the early eighteenth century. This was not just 'a cultural manifestation almost wholly aesthetic and intellectual in purpose' (which is how it has generally been described), rather it was a reaction close to panic to the depletion of timber stocks, on which the British navy, and hence the nation's very existence, was believed to depend. Private woodlands were massive investments, and had been explicitly so viewed since Elizabethan times; they were 'stored capital to be axed and realized at some future date'.
67 The suggestion is not that there are no fish in the pond, rather that the disinterested angler does not care whether he catches one or not. Ming fish-management procedures did not in fact rely on gentlemen with rods, but rather on periodic emptying of the ponds, something that the record suggests would have been perfectly possible given the hydrology of the garden's water supplies. If the pond did contain fish, it was all the more valuable in that it was a pond protected by a wall. 68 At one level, then, what we have in the Garden of the Unsuccessful Politician can be read as productive capacity behind a wall.
Wen goes on to praise by contrast the sterling moral qualities of Wang Xianchen, 'who has cast aside office and been living among his family, so to speak, building living-rooms and planting trees, irrigating a garden and selling vegetables, unfettered and at ease, enjoying the delights of dwelling at leisure in this place for twenty years'. It is always far easier to find the locus classicus of a Chinese literary allusion than it is to map the way that allusion may have been used across a long period of time.