Wednesday, November 21, 2012

China 's approach to greenbelts, urban-open spaces in Shanghai and Beijing respectively.

I was pleasantly surprised to see China’s approach to green the sidewalks and to preserve their traditional gardens, to combat the impact of the fast-growing metropolis of both Shanghai and Beijing respectively. The two cities I visited in my recent trip to China. Shanghai is considered the ‘Pearl of China’ and is the fastest growing of the two expanding cities. It is therefore important to address urbanization by creating green belts and maintain gardens and parks, as well as establish urban-open spaces to cater for a variety of needs of its fast growing population.  These green belts, parks and gardens enhance the spiritual, recreational and cultural life of the Chinese. Some of which are steeped in tradition, preserved and maintained for cultural purposes. Two such Gardens (featured here) are Yuyuan (Shanghai) and Ditan Park respectively (Beijing). 
Apartments are very small and often overcrowded and going green therefore improves the quality of life of its citizens. Strictly maintained and guarded, these segments of nature provide much relief to the city’s inhabitants, an escape from their claustrophobic living and spaces.

More importantly, it is necessary to go green to combat serious pollution. A grey haze hangs and almost drifts like mist in between the buildings, a constant reminder of its threat, restricting your view, further hampered by an ever-increasing number of high-rise buildings that rockets into the sky in every direction you look. Most of the city's cultural structures are situated in or in close proximity to gardens. During festive seasons and holidays these green spaces are fully utilized, as one would come to expect from such a densely populated metropolis. 

What one must also take into account is that the Chinese are very proud of its recent economic success and its manifestation in these two fast growing cities. Local tourists therefore flock to these new found centres of excess to see for themselves the impact of their newfound economic success. 

Avenue of Stone Figures - Ming Tombs.

Yuyuan Garden (Shanghai) was built in the Ming Dynasty, more than 400 years ago. The exquisite layout, beautiful scenery and the artistic style of the garden architecture have made the garden one of the highlights of Shanghai. The styling of these gardens is also visible in nature inspired finely crafted works of art. 
Jade carving flora and fauna.

Bamboo sculpture at Shanghai museum.

The attention to details is just incredible, as this fine example of bamboo carving depicts. The pruning and shaping of trees, gardens and sculpting of almost everything, embodies a peculiar feeling of manipulation and order taken to the highest level in all aspects of culture and all walks of life.

Yuyuan literally means Happy Garden. It is located in the center of Shanghai's Old City, a few blocks south of the Bund. It has a total area of about two hectares (five acres) with more than 40 attractions. The inner and outer gardens were both built in the Ming Dynasty classical style, with numerous rock and tree garden areas, ponds, dragon-lined walls and numerous doorways and zigzagging bridges separating various garden areas and pavilions. 
The garden covers a significant space and includes a few halls and other buildings of interest. Its cultural relics include the century-old furniture, calligraphic and painting works of famous artists, clay sculptures and brick carvings as well as some inscriptions and couplets. What would and oriental garden be without water and of course fish.
One of the highlights of the garden is the Exquisite Jade Rock. It is a 5-ton, porous, beautifully shaped, grotesque rock, which is said to have been carried from Taihu (Tai Lake) in Wuxi, Jiangsu province. The rock is characterized by its wrinkled appearance, slender shape, translucent nature and numerous holes eroded by water. An interesting legend goes that the rock was found some 1000 years ago, and it was originally one of Song Emperor Huizong's private collection before it found its way into Yu Garden.
Ditan Garden is located on Andingmenwai Street, in the Dongcheng District of Beijing City. The altar is a square, two-storied building enclosed by a square ditch. The Fangze Altar was built in 1530 during the reign of the Emperor Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). This was the sacred place used by the emperors of Ming and Qing dynasties to worship the God of the Earth. 
Ditan Park is the last remaining altar for worshipping the God of the Earth. From 1531 to 1911, 14 emperors used this alter as a place of sacrifice. At that time, worshipping the gods of Heaven and Earth was a very important part of religious activity. This practice dates all the way back to prehistoric agricultural production.The Fangze Altar is the best-preserved piece of architecture used for worshipping the God of Earth. Its original design imitated the altar of earth on Zhongshan Mountain in Nanjing. 

When the Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) reigned, the park went through large-scale reconstruction and enlargement. Ditan Park covers a square-shaped plot of about 37.4 hectares (92.4 acres). 
All of its architecture was designed according to the Chinese ancient Five Elements Theory, Round Sky and Square Earth Theory and the symbols of 'Dragon & Phoenix' and 'Heaven & Earth'. Today, in addition to the Alter of the Earth, visitors can see a number of ancient buildings such as Huangqishi, Zaishengting, Zhaigong and Shenku. Huangqishi (the House of Worship for the Earth God) is one of the major buildings in the park. 
Throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties, this was used as a spot of worship for the God of the Earth and many other Chinese gods. In 1986, it converted into an exhibition room of cultural and historical relics. Zaishengting (Slaughter Pavilion) is the place in which bulls, pigs, goats and deer were slaughtered. Animals were killed on the day before the worship ceremony, and then prepared as the sacrificial offerings for the God of the Earth.

The park is  also utilized for recreational purposes and is home to fabulous flowers including peonies and blossoms, a must see during the spring season. I did not experience the park in spring but did get to see numerous lotus flowers. 

1 comment:

Wyn Vogel said...

Just beautiful! Enjoy - the influence is there with your work - but I am sure after this it will be so strong!! Wonderful!!