In September of 2012, a group of classmates and I had the life-changing opportunity to experience China for three weeks. In Shanghai, I went to the top of the 2nd tallest building in the world, in Beijing I walked on the Great Wall of China and through the Forbidden City, and in Xi’an I walked through the tombs of the 2,200-year-old Terra Cotta Warriors.
While these were all amazing landmarks to see, they did not leave quite as big of an impression on me as the significantly smaller-scale, traditional Chinese gardens.
While fighting my way through a crowded Shanghai market one day, I stumbled upon this little urban oasis – a garden from dynasties past surrounded by the modern world. The traditional Chinese gardens have evolved over thousands of years and were made for reflection and escape from everyday life – an idealized miniature landscape meant to express the harmony that should exist between man and nature. The gardens feature four elements: water, stone, plants, and architecture. It is the composition of all these elements, and the ability of the man-made features to blend so gracefully with the natural ones, that left me inspired and sketching for hours.
The Chinese garden is an example of what makes great architecture truly great. The gardens create a unique experience on the human level, and not only have the ability to remove you emotionally from one environment and place you into another but also creates an experience that leaves you inspired.
These gardens have obviously provided the escape and relaxation they were created for, for generations. If you ever have the opportunity to visit China, take the time to experience one of these gardens. Leave the trip itinerary out of the picture for just a moment, and if you are like me, your experience and inspiration will stay with you for years.
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Image Credits: schiristia [Flickr]