Top 14 Features of Traditional Chinese Gardens

Written by Sally Guo Updated Jan. 26, 2022

Chinese Garden is a kind of elegant architecture style in China. There are many beautiful gardens in the Yangtze River area such as Suzhou and Shanghai. 

1. Rockery

In order to represent the natural surrounding, rockery is very important in building gardens. Liangji in the Eastern Han Dynasty made two artificial mountains by imitation Yin Gorge and Luo Gorge, which is the start of  life-based gardening.


2. Water

In order to represent nature, water is also one of the most important elements in making garden. Visitors can enjoy the inverted reflection in water of the landscape, watch the swimming fish, admire the lotus, and view the bright moon from the water.

3. Plants

Plants are also one important element in decorating rockery and water. The flowers and trees are compared to hair of mountains. Waterscape will also loose aesthetic feeling without flowers and trees. The natural-styled gardens have three criteria in choosing plants in order to realize the pursuit of nature. The first criterion is appearance, for example, shape of crown of a tree, texture of bark, shape of leaf, and so on. The second criterion is color. Leaves, trunks and flowers must have various natural colors, for example, red maple leaves, verdant bamboo leaves, mottled elms, white yulan and purple osmund. The third one is fragrance. It is best to have fragrance in every month. The smell of calyx canthus is refreshing while that of orchid is delicate.

4. Hall

Halls are buildings with public functions in ancient gardens, such as meeting guests, serving banquet, viewing plants and performances. Halls are always large in order to accommodate many guests. Doors and windows are well decorated and the whole building looks very elegant. Trees and flowers are planted in front of halls and rockeries are also made. Usually, halls have doors and windows on the front and back sides. However, some halls have doors and windows in four sides.

5. Main Room

The main room is usually where the residence of the head of a family. It could also be used for family celebrations. Main rooms are always arranged on the middle axis and are well decorated. The spaces in the main room are separated by screens and purdah.

6. Multi-storied Building

Multi-storied buildings refer to houses with more than one floor. They are always arranged behind the hall and main room, and are used for bedroom, schoolroom or for admiring landscape. Because they are relatively tall, they always become one scenic spot in the garden, especially for those built beside the water and mountain.

7. Multi-storied Pavilion

Similar to multi-storied buildings, multi-storied pavilions are smaller. They are always a two-storied pavilion with windows opened in four directions. Usually, it is used for collecting books and viewing sights. Sometimes the big figure of Buddha is worshiped here.

8. Terrace

Terraces are built by waters with short railings around. The terraces are used for admiring the scenery and taking a rest.

9. Fixed Boat

The fixed boats in a classical garden are quite similar to painted pleasure boats. These boats can not move and are only used for having entertainment, serving banquets, and decorating the environment. The structure of a fixed boat is similar to a boat and can be divided into three parts, fore, middle and stern. The fore is for viewing scenery, the middle is for other activities. The fixed boats always have two stories. Steps are on the stern.

10. Corridor

The corridors are used to connect all the single buildings into a whole. The corridors always have one side facing the garden scenery. The columns and transoms constitute frameworks for finding different views.


11. Pavilion

Pavilions are small and unique buildings placed at any place of the garden. They are usually used for taking a rest or shielding from the rain. The structure of a pavilion is quite simple. There are columns supporting the roof and a short wall by the columns. Seen from a plane view, pavilions can be classified as a regular polygon-shaped pavilions, rectangular pavilions, round pavilions, oval pavilions, compound pavilions, and so on. Seen from a solid view, they can also be classified as a single-eaved pavilion, double-eaved pavilion and multi-eaved pavilion.

12. Pagoda

Pagodas are important Buddhist buildings. They are always at the center in the composition of a garden and are often borrowed as a part of the scenery inside the gardens. 

13. Bridge

Bridges are not only used for transportation, but also for decoration in the gardens.


14. Wall

Walls in the garden are used for dividing spaces. They are divided into the interior walls and exterior walls. Walls have different figures, the mostly common seen kinds are whitewashed wall and cloud wall.

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