By Craig Clunas
Gardens are websites that may be at one and an identical time trendy artistic endeavors and worthy items of actual property. because the first account in English to be thoroughly in line with 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 typically, and what meanings did those representations carry at diversified degrees of chinese language society? How did the discourse of gardens intersect with different discourses corresponding to these of aesthetics, agronomy, geomancy, and botany? via analyzing the gardens of town of Suzhou from a few diversified angles, Craig Clunas presents a wealthy photograph of a posh cultural phenomenon, one who was once of an important value to the self-fashioning of the Ming elite. Drawing on quite a lot of fresh paintings in cultural thought, the writer offers for the 1st time a old and materialist account of chinese language backyard tradition, and replaces vast generalizations and orientalist myth with a resounding photograph of the garden's position in social lifestyles.
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Additional resources for Fruitful Sites: Garden Culture in Ming Dynasty China
60 Early Western observers of Chinese life remarked in general on the riches of the orchards of China available in the market-place. Gaspar da Cruz, writing in 1556, mentioned 'another kind of plum which we have not, with long, wide stones, sharp at both ends, and of these they make prunes'. 62 How then have we come to a situation where the fruit of the flowering plum has become 'scarcely edible'? One explanation is that fruit-based side relishes are much less prominent in the Chinese diet now than they were before the adoption of New World food plants, a process which began with the introduction of the peanut some time before the first reliable reference to it, in 15 38.
A fourteenth-century agronomic treatise, 'Wang Zhen's Book of Agriculture' (Wang Zben nang shu), begins its section on horticulture thus: Plot fields (pu tian) are fields for planting vegetables or fruit. ' Such fields are surrounded by a wall and bounded by a hedge and ditch. Only ro mu with its back to a city wall is sufficient to feed several mouths. If it is rather farther from the city then the amount of fields can be increased up to a maximum of half a qing [so mu]. 51 We are dealing here with a context where the average size of landholdings was not of itself very large.
E. ten mu), we arrive at the figure of twenty mu, or very nearly three acres, devoted to two compact groves of fruit-bearing trees. This is a fairly high proportion of the total of sixty-two mu that Liu Dunzhen assigns to the original, as well as to the present, layout of the garden, particularly when it is remembered that ponds make up about one-third of the total land area. Even allowing for the difference between a Ming mu and a modern one, this puts practically half the land area of the garden under a combination of flowering plums and apples in I 53 3.