Chinese horticulture began in the Qin Dynasty (1644-1911), and two royal garden construction upsurges occurred during the Qin/Han (221BC-220AD) and Sui/Tang (581-907) dynasties. Private gardens saw great development by men of letters during the Tang and Song dynasties, and entered the peaking stage in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1644-1911). The achievements in gardening during the Qing Dynasty attract greater attention, representing an important component of the third development upsurge in Chinese architecture. Almost all of the existing gardens were preserved during this age. The extant royal gardens are in the vicinity of Beijing, while private gardens of a higher artistic level are mostly 1concentrated in areas south of the Yangtze River. They constitute the two major schools of Chinese gardening.
Garden building is considered a chief component of Chinese culture. The chinese garden has a long history.It first appeared in the form of a hunting preserve for emperors and nobles in the 11th century B.C during the Zhou Dynasty. Druing the Qin and Han dynasties,those natural preserves were made more beautiful and became places of recreation for imperial families.
Garden design was an art in China. One of the most common ways to make a Chinese home more elegant was to develop one or more compounds into a garden with plants, rocks, and garden buildings. Gardens were especially appreciated for their great beauty and naturalness. In time, garden design came to be regarded as a refined activity for the well-heeled and well-educated.
The Chinese consider gardens a serious art form and as with painting, sculpture and poetry aim to attain in their design the balance, harmony, proportion and variety that are considered essential to life. In fact there is a saying which goes, "the garden is an artistic recreation of nature; a landscape painting in three dimensions" . Through a combination of such natural elements as rock, water, trees and flowers and such artificial elements as architecture, painting and poetry, the designer sought to attain an effect which adhered to the Daoist principles of balance and harmony, man and nature.
Garden building saw its heyday during the Ming and Qing dynasties and the imperial garden Yuanming Yuan was regarded as a masterpiece in this period. Different from the classical European gardens, in which geometric patterns dominate, Chinese gardens are made to resemble natural landscapes on a smaller scale. Traditional Chinese gardens fall into three categories, namely, imperial, private, and landscape gardens.
Most imperial gardens are located in north china: Beihai park; the Summer Palace; the Imperial Garden of the Forbidden City in Beijing; The Imperial Summer Resort in Chengde, Hebei Province; and Huaqing Palace in Xian Shaanxi Province. Imperial gardens occupy large areas. The summer Palace, for instance,has an area of 290 hectares while the Imperial Summer Resort in Chengde, which covers more than 560 hectares, is the largest imperial garden in China. Most of these gardens have three sections which serve administrative, residential, and recreational purposes. In large imperial gardens, the main buildings are connected by an imaginary line in the middle of the garden on a norht-south axis. Other buildings scattered among hills and waters are linked by subordinate lines, forming a well-designed symmetry and adding beauty to the chief architecural complex.
Other characteristics of the imperial gardens are coloured painitings, screen walls, stone tablets, bridges, man-made hills and lakes and ingeniously-designed buildings. Decorated archways abound in those gardens.
Most private gardens are found in the south, especially in cities south of the Yangtse River. Private gardent were mostly built at one side or the back of the residential houses. In almost every garden. there is a large space in the garden set in a landscape of artistically arranged rockeries, ponds, pavilions, bridages, trees, and flowers. Surrounding the beautiful scene are small open areas partitioned by corridors or walls with latticed windows or beautifully shaped doors. Buildings in the garden were used for receiving guests,holding banquets, reading, or writing poetry, They are open on all sides and are oftn situated near the water. The winding corridors connect various buildings and also provide a covered veranda as shelter from the rain and shade from the sun.
Suzhou, known as the home of gardens,displays the most and the best traditional private gardens in china. Among them, the Pavilion of the Surging Waves is known for its rustic charm, Lion Grove for its strang rockeries the Humble Administrater"s Garden for its tranquil waters and elegant buildings,and the Garden for Lingerring In for its ancient architectural art and the arrangement of hills, waters and plants. They re the examples of the garden styles of the song, Yunan, Ming and Qing dynasties respectively.
Gardens in Yangzhou are characterized by their architectural style and artistic rockeries, whereas Guangdong style gardens are distinguished by large ponds, brightly coloured buildings, and luxuriant plants.
Landscape gardens are different and are place for public recreation. The landscape garden mainly contains natural scenes, so it looks more natural than artificial. Good examples include the ten West Lake scenes in Hangzhou, the twenty-four Slim West Lake scenes in yangzhou. and the eight Daming Lake scenes in Jinan.