Now we get into the "good" stuff - gardens!
Chinese mansions in the old days were arranged with an open courtyard
in the center. Typically, a blank wall with a door faced the street.
Honored guests were invited into the very back rooms, while
tradespeople and less honored folk were dealt with in the rooms closer
to the street entrance.
A "moon gate" was a very popular motive - these round openings appear
in the canals and in gardens.
Chinese gardens are quite different from Western gardens. Three
elements need to be present: water, rocks (including buildings), and
trees. Flowers are usually set out in pots seasonally. Occasionally,
there were bonsai set out among the rocks. Chinese bonsai
are bigger than Japanese ones. The Chinese claim that the Japanese
learned the art from them.
Everything is "balanced," i.e., matched pairs. Proportions are
important, too. Vistas are arranged. Doors open onto specific scenes;
windows look out onto other scenes. Oftentimes there were platforms
built out into the water to allow people to sit and enjoy fireworks, or
the peaceful rippling of the water. It took me a while to come to
appreciate these kinds of gardens.
The decorative windows are carved out of wood. The patterns make
beautiful shadows on the inside walls and floors. Very subtle.