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Chinese Gardens: Pavilions, Studios, Retreats

August 18, 2012–January 6, 2013

Pavilions and Paradises

Landscape in China has always had a human dimension. Consequently, architectural elements, particularly pavilions, are a quintessential feature of both Chinese landscape paintings and gardens. In gardens, pavilions identify prime vantage points from which to view the scenery; they also serve as focal points within landscape settings. In painting, meticulous "ruled-line" renderings of pavilions celebrate historical or literary structures or indicate the fabled dwelling of the immortals—particularly when set within an archaic blue-and-green landscape meant to evoke a so-called golden age. In Chinese lore, such paradises were imagined as the dwelling place of Daoist immortals. Mortals might stumble upon such magical habitations by losing their way, passing through a grotto, or crossing a stream. In such "lost horizons," time stands still and residents cease to age, while generations might pass in the human realm. In the garden, a moon gate or concealed passage might signal a similar entry point into an alternative universe.

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