The Differences among Chinese Gardens

The large cultural gap between East and West creates a valley of exploration to be uncovered. One way to look at it is through the architecture – or design rather – of gardens.

Chinese Gardens, like this one in Suzhou takes permanence for grated, allowing itself to expand and evolve freely without much thought into the “originality” of it. The garden isn’t an object, but a place. And objects make this place. Western gardens place importance in the discipline of geometry, maintaining a thick theoretical/philosophical backing while trying to keep its sheer originality through its years.

In a way, the east has embraced the idea of impermanence in their lives, constructing their buildings of timber and letting them disappear over centuries, while the Greeks and Egyptians raise their buildings with stone and mortar hoping they would last forever.

It’s a wonder why today, many Japanese/Chinese palaces still stand with much of its original (or originally evolved) splendor as opposed to Greek or Roman monuments. It is believed that it was because of timber’s ability to be quickly replaced or rebuilt the moment it disintegrates. Whereas stone buildings are difficult to do so.

Nevertheless, in a modern example, we still see today that the east faces no qualms in living in a constantly evolving environment. Tokyo’s buildings get torn down almost the day after its official opening. Buildings in Japan now have to be specially designed to cater for dismantling and quick assembling, as if buildings could one day be as mobile as cars.

China’s skyline is different each morning, with towers growing like bamboo shoots and old hutongs torn down for sprawling satellite cities.

Western societies go through a barrage of legal obligations and approvals from both the authorities and the society before buildings get built. The design gets revised over and over again, most of the time, heading back to the conventional and striving for a sense of permanence. Evident is the evolution of NYC’s Freedom Tower; a symbol of American insecurity (Alan Balfour). The tower’s design changed to reflect the city’s (or the country’s?) willingness to embrace change or evolution in architecture and design.

This world is changing so fast… Will the speed of change one day exceed the human’s ability to cope?

How would you accept change?

There is so much to learn from Chinese and Western Gardens. A whole new perspective on the world’s greatest cultural differences.