Construction of Paradise: Principles of Chinese Classical Garden

The Prince's Foundation School of Traditional Arts China Centre
2019.4.15 - 2019.5.3
Ye Fang

This course takes students through the compositional elements and design principles ofthe traditional Chinese garden, and encourages them to think about the significance of landscape painting to gardens, and contemplate the philosophical aspects of traditional garden art. In theprocess, students will learn to transfer designs from flat plane to three-dimensional structure; in particular, the process by which the waterways, plants and groves of a landscape painting on paper can be transformed into a physical landscape. Through the study of layering of the rocks, coordination of the waterways, selection of flowers, trees and plants, and the design and construction of pavilions, platforms, and interior design, students will learn how each of the elements form their own systems and at the same time constitute an organic whole, thus furtherdeepening their understanding of garden design. Students will also make onsite visits to classic gardens, where they will further learn to identify garden composition and construction techniques and apply them to their design process.

The aim of this course:

First Week: Conceptual Framework of Garden Design

  •  Focus will be on the classic elements of Chinese gardens, from the location and composition of the garden to the layering of the rocks, coordination of the waterways, selection of flowers, trees and plants, and the design and construction of pavilions, platforms, and interior design, and their interrelations.
  • Students will learn to: identify techniques of garden design and interpret ideas behind Chinese traditional garden art.

Second Week: Craft of Garden Design

  • Examine the physical manifestation of design, from two-dimensional plane to façade, from three-dimensional structure to its built effect, from the totality to the parts, from the landscape to the trees and plants.
  • Practice the transformation from drawings and plans to actual constructions on the ground, from the art of spatial formation to the science  and engineering aspects of design. These processes are complementary: each can be a reference point for the other.

Third Week: Rules of Garden Design

  • Investigate the artistic aspects of garden design through landscape paintings and poetry.
  • Learn about two ways of constructing space: spatial formation through scenery and situational creation through poetry.

Tutor biography

Ye Fang

Professor Ye Fang is an artist, garden designer and educator. 

Professor Ye Fang was born into a family of learning. His ancestor, Bi Yuan, was an official and literati who served Emperor Qianlong and started the family tradition of designing and constructing gardens. He was born in Suzhou and spent his childhood in the family residence at Bi Yuan (Bi Garden), a garden created by Bi Yice, his great grandfather, and received his early education and a traditional upbringing there. Later, he studied at the Art and Crafts Institute in Suzhou focusing on The Humble Administrator’s Garden, and later conducted advanced research into the landscape design of Ting Feng Yuan (Listening to Maples Garden), both of which are among the finest and most famous scholar’s gardens in China. 

Now, Professor Ye is devoted to promoting the art of the garden within a contemporary context. Across his work in different media--whether ink painting, sculpture, installation or landscape design--his understanding of the Chinese garden as it is informed by culture and tradition has always been a connecting thread. 

The garden Professor Ye designed and constructed in Suzhou, Nan Shi Pi Ji, is the only contemporary Chinese garden listed in UNESCO’s report on Suzhou’s classic gardens, after nine of the most famous historical gardens; and his work Da Yuan (Da Garden) which was shown at the 53rd Venice Biennale, was the first artwork related to classical Chinese garden design to be featured there.