Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: gardens
Monday, 28 September 2009 21:25

As small and immense as a soul: gardens of Suzhou

If gardens are the hidden paradises of China, Suzhou is the paradise of gardens...

Among those she hides within her walls, eight are now included into the world heritage sites. The "Humble Administrator Garden", the "Garden of the Master of Nets", the " Blue Waves Pavilion ’, the “Lingering Garden" are among the most famous of them. Often, they were created by scholar-officials aspiring to escape the worries of their offices Suzhou leads us towards the secret of Chinese gardens: a mystical place, a dream land, a fragile and tenacious Utopia, a garden is also and ultimately a living body, complete with orifices, vessels and limbs.

Orifices, first ... The garden, a small and secluded place, endlessly increases its size through its internal divisions - mounds that break the perspective, walls running along the walkways, partitions all around its pavilions. But these partitions are pierced by openwork windows, round doors and numerous small openings through which the walker can appropriate space and sight, reconstructing the scenes and dividing anew the world ... The space actually occupied by the garden must be kept modest - its bends, its curves, its openings extend it towards infinity, till it spreads over the extent of a soul.

The openings suggest the paths to be followed. Windows and doors gradually reveal the garden to our senses, as the painter’s hand unfolds with pride and caution the scroll on which he made the roaring waterfall, the trail on the side of the mountain, the grove pines and the sea of clouds come to life ... The garden indeed is a scroll, a miniature world opened up and enlarged by our walks and our whims. For whom wanders from one window to another, to the peaceful bamboos, to the banana trees gently whistling in the wind, succeed a rock mimicking the peak of a cliff, a hill of which the summit is hidden, the corner of a roof, or a cut of the sky speaking only of emptiness... Through its countless orifices, the garden multiplies the eyes and the dreams of the one who walks in its midst, till our visions are gathered in an unique glance that plunges into the secret and double soul of the garden and his dweller.

Pierced with orifices, the garden is irrigated by vessels through which circulate life, breath and seasons ... Water animates a garden - water collected in a pond and divided into channels that flow in its interior; water that makes small garden rocks the mimes of the formidable mountains that the sponsor and the creator of the place have marveled at during their travels before suggesting their majesty in their private compound. The passer-by crosses over miniature seas fringed with dwarfed vegetation on tiny suspension bridges... Ethereal scents mixed with the sounds of faint waterfalls whisper around – the garden stammers our dreams between the lines of day and shade. Nearby the water, are scattered small and pensive trees, and pebbles that speak of the shore and are strung like a string of islands. A flute, a bird leaving traces of their absence...

Irrigated by the vessels that make it a living body, the garden can deploy its limbs, taking the form of a lying dragon, a unicorn, or perhaps one of these Taoist immortals of whom we do not know whether they are men or gods. Its limbs are made of its eminences, these modest mountains that transform the pond into a sea, the channels into giant rivers, and the courtyards into continents. They are also its paths lined with plants and flowers that speak of the virtues shared between the garden and who called it to existence: temperance, courage and longevity ...

And yet ... Though it covers the full extent of a soul, the garden can not forget that it is also so tiny – a grain that condenses the world, but all the same a grain, perishable and insignificant ... And Chinese gardens, throughout history, were often destroyed, burned, redesigned and re-emerging ... Ultimately, the garden is perhaps a boat, the boat which leads us gently to the sea of things impermanent, and which, for a moment, makes its bitterness more bearable...


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