For the past two weeks I have been in China, and to my surprise I was totally unable to log into blogger (or access it in any way). The government has completely blocked it. This means I was thwarted in my plans to post every now and then about my travels.
But now I am back!I will most likely start off slow, but I intend to post periodically over the next few weeks about aspects of China that I found interesting.
The photo above is of one of the courtyards of Yu Yuan in Shanghai. These are preserved traditional gardens dating from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD).
Chinese traditional gardens are quite unlike any gardens I've seen before. They consist of interlocking courtyards, either walled or divided up by pavilions of all shapes and sizes. The courtyards are filled with artificial rock (and cement/mortar) formations built up to resemble 'mountains'. Sometimes there is a pond (with fish and water lillies). Plants and trees are integrated with the rock formations - I can't remember too many of the plant types, but I do recall they included oleander, Japanese maple and poinsettia.
The gardens are usually highly decorative, including stone mosaics of objects such as dragonflies along the paved pathways and dragons in various forms. They also often contain a form of Chinese bonsai. The more ornate the better!
In addition to Yu Yuan, we saw gardens like this in Suzhou, which is renowned for its gardens, and Beijing, within the Forbidden Temple complex. The rock formations themselves are quite ugly, but the gardens as a whole can be very attractive and peaceful. It was lovely just to wander through, soak up the atmosphere, and pay attention to all the detail (which I've described very badly!).
It seems rather a lovely lifestyle, though, with real living areas (buildings/pavilions) broken up by various courtyards. The 'Garden of the Master of the Net' in Suzhou struck me like this in particular - the entire complex (house and garden) is walled like a private residence, but instead of our concept of the garden surrounding the house, it was all broken up like a patchwork of house and garden. I could easily imagine a family in residence, the kids running and yelling out of one pavilion, through the nearest paved courtyard (maybe falling in the pond or feeding the fish) then bounding into the next indoor room.