Gardens are sites that can be at one and the same time admired works of art and valuable pieces of real estate. As the first account in English to be wholly based on contemporary Chinese sources, this innovative, beautifully illustrated book grounds the practices of garden-making in Ming dynasty China (1368–1644) firmly in the social and cultural history of the day.
Who owned Ming gardens? Who visited them? How were they represented in words, in paintings, and in visual culture generally, and what meanings did these representations hold at different levels of Chinese society? How did the discourse of gardens intersect with other discourses such as those of aesthetics, agronomy, geomancy, and botany? By examining the gardens of the city of Suzhou from a number of different angles, Craig Clunas provides a rich picture of a complex cultural phenomenon—one that was of crucial importance to the self-fashioning of the Ming elite.
Drawing on a wide range of recent work in cultural theory, the author provides for the first time a historical and materialist account of Chinese garden culture, and replaces broad generalizations and orientalist fantasy with a convincing picture of the garden’s role in social life. Fruitful Sites
will appeal to all students of China’s cultural history, to students of garden history from any part of the world, to art historians, and to readers engaged in Asian and cultural studies.