Upcoming conference: “New approaches in Chinese garden history”

Sheffield, UK

18 – 19th Jun 2015

Research in Chinese garden history has burgeoned over the past thirty years, with a renewed interest being sparked by Maggie Keswick’s book The Chinese Garden (1978), a sumptuously produced volume that coincided with the end of the Cultural Revolution and the opening up of China. While initially it had been feared that most gardens in China were lost and that studies would primarily have to rely on few surviving literary descriptions, more and more gardens have been rediscovered and many have been restored, declared an important part of the historic environment. Most of the research has focussed on restored examples, with the present state being used as a basis for understanding the past. Another trend has come from Sinologists who have investigated literature and illustrations as a source of evidence of Chinese garden culture. A third way of investigating gardens has come from an understanding of how they were actually used as a basis for a traditional lifestyle. Clearly there is a rich variety of possible analyses and there remain huge unexplored areas within the field. The conference in Sheffield sets out to take stock and identify a number of possible future avenues. It is dedicated to Dr Alison Hardie, who has been central to the revival of scholarship on Chinese gardens: she edited a new edition of Maggie Keswick’s book in 2003 and has translated various works including the classic text on garden design in China The Craft of Gardens, originally written by Ji Cheng in 1631 (1988). At the end of the current academic year Alison is retiring from the University of Leeds.

The Conference is organised by the Centre for East West Studies, a joint venture between the School of Architecture and Department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield, but in which Alison has participated. This Centre has encouraged studies in landscape and architecture of the far eastern context, education, and assumptions, in order to understand better both its ancient traditions and its current attitudes and methods. In doing this, the intention has been to highlight something of the potential richness of the only ancient culture to rival the European base of Greece and Rome, and whose architecture has yet to see adequate recognition. This objective is achieved through the various research students at Sheffield, and involves visiting scholars who contribute to the research culture through regular colloquia, which have been open for those from elsewhere and have drawn a range of scholars from various backgrounds. The conference builds on this research tradition with further international contributions and provides a unique opportunity to engage with the latest developments in the research on Chinese gardens.

A selection of international scholars will present papers that span a wide range of topics that aim to update the historiography of Chinese gardens and their reception in the West, and the evolution of the research in the modern context. It will be followed by presentations from the Landscape department’s PhD candidates currently working on Chinese garden studies with the support of Dr. Woudstra (University of Sheffield) and Dr. Hardie.

The conference will be preceded with a study visit to Biddulph Grange near Stafford. This garden was originally created by James Bateman (1811–1897), and consists of a series of world gardens, which contains a Victorian interpretation of the Chinese Garden that incorporates a ‘Great Wall of China’ and a selection of Chinese plants.


Provisional programme

Thursday 18 June 2015

  • Visit to Biddulph Grange, Staffordshire, National Trust (optional)
  • Conference dinner in Sheffield (optional)

Friday 19 June 2015

Venue: Floor 13, Arts Tower, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN
Arrival address: Jan Woudstra (University of Sheffield)

  • Alison Hardie (University of Leeds), ‘Reflections on how Chinese garden studies have changed over the course of my career’
  • Lucie Olivová (Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic), ‘A Boat-trip to a Yangzhou Garden on the 7th of the 7th, 1771’
  • Georges Métailié (CNRS/ MNHN- Paris), ‘Two scholar-gardeners and their plants, Gao Lian and Zhao Han, at the end of Ming and beginning of Qing Dynasties’
  • Lei Gao (NMBU, Norway),‘A response to Alison Hardie’s quest after a Chinese grove’
  • Bianca Rinaldi (University of Camerino, Italy), ‘Translating the Chinese Garden: the Western Invention of a Canon’
  • Emile de Bruijn (The National Trust, Great Britain), ‘The changing significance of the Chinese taste in British gardens’

Landscape Department PhD candidates’ presentations:

  • Fei Mo, ‘The evolution of Chinese public gardens in the concessional Shanghai 1840s-1940s’
  • Liyuan Gu, ‘A critical history of rockwork in Chinese gardens’
  • Josepha Richard, ‘Cantonese gardens in the 19th century’


Abstract and announcement:


BOOKING INFORMATION: http://onlineshop.shef.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=2&catid=51&prodid=382


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