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Environmental Philosophy

Volume 7, Issue 1, Spring 2010

Hui Zou
Pages 47-61

The Philosophical Encounter Embodied by the Yuanming Yuan

The Yuanming Yuan of the Qing dynasty was a magnificent imperial garden in Chinese history. The garden consisted of three Chinese gardens and a “Western-like garden” designed by the EuropeanJesuits. The garden encounter in the Yuanming Yuan provides a valuable case for studying cultural fusion in early modernity. This article redraws the traditional line of Daoist cosmology in Chinese imperial gardens by analyzing the fengshui layout of the Yuanming Yuan. Based on the Qing emperors’ writings, imperial archives, and the garden representations, the research interprets the design distinction and its cross-cultural accommodation. The article concludes that the exotic depth produced by the linear-perspective views in the European portion demonstrated the typical Daoist attempt of preserving full brightness in one’s mind through seeking the remotest garden scenery, as stated in the Daoist scripture Laozi that “whoever knows his brightness veils himself in his darkness.” This Daoist paradoxical idea, best embodied by the Yuanming Yuan, opens up a comparative understanding of Heidegger’s concept “paradoxa.”

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