Chinese Garden Pavilions

Traditional Chinese pavilion is normally a covered small structure with little or no wall.

These open structures were initially erected at the roadside in the Warring States era more than 2,200 years ago as shelters for soldiers. After China was reunited under the Qin, a unified postal system was established, and roadside pavilions were used for the government postmen on horseback to transfer the letters and parcels. It also provided passengers a place to take a rest on a long journey and shelter during the rain.

But it was in Tang Dynasty, Chinese scholar poets/painters (they were often the same people) began to introduce pavilions into their garden residence to materialise their poems and to convey their 2D paintings into a 3D landscape.

Since Song and Ming and thereafter, pavilions have become essential elements in garden design, which serve two key functions apart from offering covered seating: as a focal point of the garden, and as the base to view the garden scene.

The ideal locations for a pavilion in a Chinese garden are considered to be on the halfway of a hill to make the mount appear taller, or by a watercourse to produce reflections.

Below are some famous Chinese pavilions:

Pavilion by Cold Spring

Location:

Garden of Fisherman’s Net, a private garden residence in Suzhou

Architectural Feature:

The pavilion in the shape of half of the normal structure attaches to an enclosure wall so it is in harmony in terms of its size and shape with the overall setting and the rest of the elements in this small garden unit.

History:

Built during Ming Dynasty (1366 – 1644).

In the 1980s, this piece of garden centred with the half-pavilion and background wall was copied to a New York museum by Professor Chen Chongzhou, of Shanghai Tongji University.

Pavilion of Whom to Sit With

Location:

Garden of Humble Governance, a private garden residence in Suzhou

Architectural Feature:

Its floor plan is like a fully opened folding fan with half of the total elevations to the road and hill semi-enclosed with walls, while another half completely opening to the pond. It maximises the water view while protecting whoever sits there from physical disturbance of wind and visual interruption of passersby. Thus it would be a wonderful private location to sit with your lover ;D

History:

Built during Ming Dynasty (1366 – 1644)

Orchid Pavilion

Location:

Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province

Architectural feature:

A pavilion with a triangular floor plan, stone columns and tile roof was built to house a stone tablet commemorating an outdoor party taken place in the 4th century

History:

It was built in 1548 during the Ming Dynasty on the site where China’s greatest calligrapher Wang Xizhi (301 – 361) is said to have penned “Preface to the Poems Collected from the Orchid Pavilion” on an outdoor gathering attended by 42 scholars who were also poets, painters and calligraphers (three basic skills of traditional Chinese scholars).

Great Wave Pavilion (Canglang Ting)

Location:

Suzhou, Jiangsu Province

Architectural feature:

The pavilion perches on the top of a man-made rocky hill shaded by trees around. On the front of the square stone columns, a pair of poetic lines were inscribed:

Fresh winds and the bright moon are all priceless;
Nearby ponds and distant hills are so affectionate.
(清风明月本无价;近水远山皆有情).

History:

The garden residence named after the pavilion was initially built by North Song scholar-official Su Shunqin in 1044 after he was fired from his office and banished from the capital Kaifeng.

During the Southern Song, it became the residence of Chinese national heroes: Han Shizhong and his wife Liang Hongyu (1102 – 1135).

400 years late in 1546, of Ming Dynasty, the garden was conveyed into a Buddhist monastery.

After another 400 years in the earlier 20th century, a fine art school was located there. During the Japanese occupation, the garden was then used as the invasion army’s headquarters.

In 1954, the garden has been thoroughly repaired and opened to the public ever since.

Pavilion of a Thousand Autumns

Location:

The royal garden in the back of the Forbidden City, Beijing

Architectural Feature:

It’s huge in size and complicated in shape as a pavilion, set up on a raised white marble platform, reflecting the formality and majesty of royal character.

Unlike typical scholarly gardens as we see in Suzhou, here timber columns and doors are painted in red, with more vibrant colours like yellow, blue and green decorating the beams.

Such a stronger colour scheme is normally detested in Chinese garden art, for it is regarded as overwhelming the natural setting.

However, for royal gardens in Beijing where the land is dry and cold, which results a bleak-looking winter scene, bright colours could, to some extent, invigorate a dismal open space.

History:

Built during Ming Dynasty (1366 – 1644).

It was the place where the emperors’ mothers and wives burned incense and presented fruits and cakes to statues of higher forces, praying for nation’s peace and stability, monarch’s health and longevity, and lots royal male descendants.

Round Pavilion

Location:

On the Viewing Hill, the background mount (for feng shui purpose) of the Forbidden City, Beijing

Architectural Feature:

It crowns the Viewing Hill, that commands the view of central Beijing and functions as the key element in Fengshui backdrop to protect the royal palace. Its circular shape further signifies perfection and union.

History:

Built during Ming Dynasty (1366 – 1644).

It was on a tree near this pavilion of the union, the last Chinese emperor, Congzhen, separated from his beloved kingdom and hanged himself when Beijing was taken by rebellions then the Manchu aliens in the year 1644. The current tree on the spot was a later replacement.

(Source of photos: @中国古典建筑)

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