"I WAS SUDDENLY TRANSPORTED INTO CHINA". SOME REMARKS ON A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LITERATURE AND GARDEN CULTURE
To Europeans China has served for many centuries as a label, as a blank and a promise. This is reflected in garden architecture as well as in literature. Garden architectural details considered exotic, grotesque, and imitative such as villages, pagodas, pavilions, bridges, etc. and poems, novels, fairy tales, plays, etc. carry many Chinese imaginations. They oscillate between sophistication and stereotype. In order to understand the meaning of this Chinoiserie I will follow specific traces of interpretations as adapted in the western world. Do these fascinating approaches show a tendency towards romanticisim, or even eclectism? For western friends of gardens and literatures the construction of the cultural profile of this very specific China idea seems to include curiosity and innovation. For the establishment of various architectural details of Chinese origin in gardens all over Europe literature is instrumental. Lyrics, epigrams, sketches, discussions and lectures are found in garden settings and garden scenes of Chinese flair. In some instances they serve as reflected counterparts to ancient Greek or Roman garden heritage. Thus they combine passions and professions quite similar in both areas of obviously strong interest and ambition. The Chinese Hong Lou Meng (The Dream of the Red Chamber) novel serves as one example. Here the protagonists take part in garden lessons. I will compare this to literary figures in German novels like Goethes Werther and Wilhelm Meister. In these novels to garden and to learn, to listen, to improve, and of course, to offer and to follow decisions provide initial and ritual schemes as strong motifs. Certain garden plots, subjects and places, e.g., bridges, moon gates, windows, peach trees, plum groves, rockeries, successfully mark the literary and architectural attempts of lay and expert garden designers. The very striking open-air lessons of personal development and the illustration of cultural codes takes place here. In my presentation I will visit some of those sceneries and will have a look at cultural transformation processes from both, garden culture and literature.
Thielking, S. (2013). "I WAS SUDDENLY TRANSPORTED INTO CHINA". SOME REMARKS ON A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LITERATURE AND GARDEN CULTURE. Acta Hortic. 999, 201-205
Chineseness, garden lessons, Hong Lou Meng, poetry, sensualism, stereotypes