Much like any other endeavour from the ancient province, the art of Chinese gardens is a fascinatingly deep and beautiful exercise. Chinese gardens are meant to be microcosms, representing the elemental forces that shape our world, arranged in the most aesthetically satisfying way possible. It is a place where nature and man come together and coax the landscape into a shape that represents each side equally. A place where stone and timber flow just as harmoniously as music and water. If there could be a thing more worthy than a poem labeled “A Beautiful Melody” that could inspire the design of one such garden, I cannot think of it.
Stuttgarters have the pleasure of having such a place overlooking the city, and I hope reading this helps other people like me find their way to it.
The Ancient Philosophy of Chinese Gardens
Gardens from the South of the Yangtze River in China are the essence of Chinese garden art. The beauty of these gardens lies in applying the theory of traditional Chinese painting to the construction of the garden, concentrating the natural landscape in a smaller space, merging the landscape and structures into a whole. Themes of nature and life are often what inspire the greatest art. Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, or even modern works, such as the beautiful composition that is “The River Flows in You” by Yiruma, depict the theme of nature, and the way it is reflects within the human soul.
The Chinese Garden in Stuttgart is also inspired by such a work. A poem labeled “Qing Yin” by Zou Si, a poet of the Jin Dynasty. It describes the beauty of stone and water and relates it to a melody. Anyone who has visited the garden, would have no trouble relating to the description above, and those who haven’t, will hopefully be inspired to visit as well.
A tiny place, a tiny respite
The garden is located on the hillside, on Panoramastraße, and is a short walk away from the Stadtbibliothek. The entrance is adorned by a beautifully inlaid “Yin and Yang” taijitu, which according the garden website, depicts the cyclical process of the cosmos, and separates the small place, from the rest of the world. Whether it is a clever architecture, the symbolism, or the sheer aura evoked by the place, but one small step through the low gate almost magically transports you to quaint place of solitude. I could hardly believe that I was only a short while away from the imposing structures of the library, or the large buildings that surround it. Generally, tall and large structures tend to hold our attention the most. However, almost miraculously, the fact that it is small garden actually enhances the effect it has.
Poetry Stood Still
Everything the garden has to offer is immediately placed in front of you. The beautifully cobblestoned paths almost have the dull shine of old silver. The pond and the bridge zig-zagging across it give a sense of depth and dimension to the place. The gazebo overlooking the garden from the stone cliff almost reminded me of the rock from Disney’s “The Lion King” overlooking, and standing guard over the garden.
Zou Si, in his poem says, "Not only lutes and flutes, but also mountains and water make a beautiful melody." This means that mountains and water are as enchanting as paintings and melodies, so that an association is aroused in the visitor from the scenery, and the landscape and the sensation interact with each other. This is the peculiar effect of the Chinese garden.
Chinese art theory professes a philosophy that is, "If you want to emphasize something, it must be placed in the background". This is very apparent to see in the garden, as the themes of rock and water are subtly intertwined throughout the landscape. They never try to take a prominent place, but in doing so, they make themselves known more even more profoundly.
Although the place is best enjoyed in solitude, more often than not, the garden will have other people in it. But it is never chaotic, or noisy. The vibes of the place make you want to quietly and silently exist. I found myself mesmerized by the random, yet smooth motion of schools of fish in the pond, or enjoying a brief but much needed moment of peace, as I perched myself on the edge of the rocks in front of the gazebo. I happened to have gone there on a rainy day and, just as I was under the wooden structure of the gazebo, the sun peeked through the clouds, and rays of light streamed through the gaps in the wood, covering me with a warm glow.
Just behind the gazebo, there is small space, with a bench to sit on it. It overlooks the city of Stuttgart. It holds the inexplicable allure that all the high places that overlook the vista seem to have. It briefly breaks the spell the rest of the garden casts on you, but it has a charm of its own.
The perfect place to relieve the stress of exams
The life of a student, although free and colorful in its own ways, is often dictated with the stress of exams. It is often hard to relax in the same place you study or work. The environment is simply not conducive enough. However, you find yourself not being able to take very long breaks either. What you often need is change, but with a time limit. The Chinese Garden offers the perfect blend of social interaction, distraction, and peace that can revive your brain cells and allow you to concentrate more effectively. I highly recommend you find yourself a couple of hours on a stressful day, and allow the garden to work its magic.
My experience with the art of Chinese gardens is rather limited. Other than my personal experience with this particular garden, everything I have written about is sourced from information provided on site, as well as the website of the garden. I have done my best to research thoroughly and I apologize profusely if I have misunderstood some of the references, and I assure you that I mean no offence to the Chinese culture. Any mistakes I may have made in the description of the garden or the philosophies behind it are purely human error on my part.
Prateek V. Patankar
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