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Structures and Salient Features

The buildings in Chinese gardens vary in function and scenic perspective. The following is a brief introduction to some of the common structures:


A lobby is where guests are met, feted, invited to marvel at exotic potted plants, or entertained with theatrical performances. In ancient Chinese gardens, the lobby played a public role. It not only calls for a large space so as to accommodate as many guests as possible, but also needs eye-pleasing window and gate ornamentation and an elegant architectural style. Rocks are piled up and trees and flowers planted in front of the lobby. A lobby generally has windows and doors in the facade and the back wall, but there are also cases in which windows and doors are opened into all four walls.


The corridor comprises the center piece of a garden. It not only serves as a link between buildings, but also partitions up the space. A corridor is a scene to be enjoyed. Generally speaking, a corridor is gaily painted with pictures.


This was where the patriarch of a family lived or where family celebrations were held. The parlor is mostly located on the axis of an entire complex, with a well-conceived design and elegant interior decoration. Partition doors, openwork screens, and antique-and-curio shelves are often used to divide up the space. A parlor often bears a graceful name, such as "Shende (Prudence and Virtue) Parlor" and "Bingli (Propriety Observance) Parlor".

Waterside Kiosk

A waterside kiosk often overlooks a river or pond. Looking slim and graceful, it has a wide facade and sits right above the water, propped up with stone pillars planted into the bed of a river or pond. It is used to decorate the shore of a lake or a river, and adds a touch of appeal to the surroundings.

Storied Chamber

The storied chamber is a house with more than two floors. During the Ming Dynasty the chamber was often built behind the lobby. In a garden the storied chamber was often used as bedroom or reading room, or simply for marveling at the scenery. Because of its height, the storied chamber often becomes a scenic attraction in its own right, and this is particularly the case when it stands by a river or pond or at the foot of a mountain.


The bridge is not only a means of transportation but also serves to beautify the environment and incorporating the surrounding scenery into the picture.

Storied Pavilion

The storied pavilion is akin to the storied ch, but is more exquisitely built. Most such pavilions are in two floors, with windows let into all four sides. It is usually used to store books or watch the sights. Some pavilions are enshrined with Bud


The pagoda is a major Buddhist building. In a garden it often appears in the center of the entire layout, and is an element for the creation of new scenery.


The kiosk is where one stops to take a rest or enjoy the scene, and forms a scene on its own. Kiosks vary in size and style. They can be in every conceivable shape, square, round, hexagonal, octagonal, or fan-like. A kiosk may be found protruding from the middle or end of a corridor, or where the corridor takes a turn. There are also kiosks half hidden in a wall or hallway.


The wall, serving as a screen built of brick, stone or rammed earth, comes in a variety of shapes, such as cloudy walls and flowery walls. Windows are often let into the wall to create shifting scenes of captivating beauty. The top of the wall and the wall itself are often richly ornamented.

Differences Between Chinese and Western Gardens

Chinese garden culture and its Western counterpart belong to two different schools. The following is a brief comparison between them.


Western Style

Chines Style



Regular geometric layout

Ecology-friendly liberal layout



Straight, axis-like, tree-lined

Windings, zigzagging, leading to places of repose



Planted in symmetrical forms or in lines

Isolated, scattered, in natural forms



Flower beds in well-conceived patterns and coloration

Beds for potted flowers, with due attention paid to the form of plants


Water Scenes

Dynamic water scenes, such as fountains and waterfalls

Stationery water scenes, such as streams, pons and dripping springs



Extensive lawn

Undulating rock formations



Stone sculptures of figures and animals

Huge stones from Lake tai



Perspectives fixed on scenery

Borrowing of the scenery, which changes with the shift of footsteps



Extensive, open landscape

Scenes hidden in quiet places



Knights¡¦ romanticism

Poetic feelings of literati

Aesthetic Features of Chinese Gardens

To enjoy or appraise a Chinese garden, there are six aspects to keeping mind.

  1. Conception
  2. The way rockery and waters are arranged
  3. Pavilions, terraces, halls and chambers
  4. Flower and tree arrangements
  5. Appropriate names
  6. Poetic touch

Elements in Chinese Gardens

A Chinese garden consists of four parts:

  1. Rock formations
  2. Water scenes
  3. Architecture
  4. Flowers and trees

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