Marching Forward Bravely along the Extension Cord of Chinese Landscape Architecture

Shi Diandong   2018-06-11 16:15:17

On June 24, 2011, the 35th Session of UNESCO World Heritage Committee unanimously agreed that the West Lake should be listed in the World Cultural Heritages and affirmed the prominent cultural values ​​of the West Lake, which highly appreciated the core values ​​and protection work of the West Lake traditional culture. The World Heritage Committee remarks: the West Lake, as an outstanding example of world cultural landscape, exerts "far-reaching impact on landscape design in China and around the world." The Committee fully affirmed the philosophy of the West Lake for pursuing the "harmony between human and nature", appreciated that the West Lake has not only maintained its historical and cultural authenticity and continuity, but also, with the continuous development of society, gradually improved its ecological environment protection and landscape architecture construction, and constantly perfected the values of the West Lake.

The landscape architecture of the West Lake wasn't built overnight, but based on the ancestors’ protection and construction and gathered the hardships of three generations who devoted themselves to landscape architecture. Over the past 60 years, the protection, inheritance, integration and innovation in the West Lake landscape architecture have been consistently followed.

Protection: protect the landscape pattern of the West Lake as well as the green mountains and clear rivers, protect historical and cultural heritage and protect folk customs;

Inheritance: inherit the spirit and value of the landscape culture of Chinese nation and inherit the natural landscape philosophy, basic characteristics and construction methods of Chinese landscape architecture art;

Integration: constantly learning and absorbing the excellent culture and technology of landscape architecture from the world, integrating the British landscape architecture style with the West Lake;

Innovation: advancing with the times, creating landscape architecture works that meet the life demands and aesthetic needs of modern people, providing a dwelling with beautiful flowers and refreshing air for the masses;

In 1949, the West Lake was in miserable scenes with lakes blocked, monuments collapsed and Ten Scenes of the West Lake disappearing. It began to regulate mountains and rivers and implement the decision of improving ecological environment (ecological restoration) in 1950. The mountain areas took the measures of both reforestation and afforestation. During 10 years, more than 30 million trees were planted in the mountain areas, and the mountains basically turned green. The dredging of the West Lake started from 1952. By 1958, 7.2 million cubic meters of sludge has been dredged and the depth of water has been increased from 0.5 meters to 1.8 meters. In this way, the ecological environment of the West Lake has been completely improved. At the time of restoring the cultural relics and historical sites, the new parks and scenes around the West Lake, with the subject of Ten Scenes of the West Lake, which have been appreciating for more than 800 years, are repairing and building. The combination of ecology (efficiency) and art (effect), science and art, is insisted on.

From the perspective of innovation, the West Lake was forward-looking and pioneering. It was a result influenced by historical, natural and human factors.

The human factors: Mr. Yu Senwen, the pioneer and founder of the modern West Lake landscape architecture, was the first director of Hangzhou landscape construction after the liberation of Hangzhou, and later the vice mayor in charge of urban construction. He studied at Jinling University in 1924 and studied Economics and Politics at the University of London in 1934, and he was proficient in English. From 1934 to 1936, he traveled to more than 20 countries in Europe, the United States, East Asia and South Asia, and his experience guaranteed him a successful career. Mr. Yu advocated that the construction of the West Lake landscape architecture should, based on the nature, history and culture, take in advanced environmental views and landscape architecture practices from abroad, creating a new landscape architecture style for the West Lake. In 1953, the "Overall Construction Planning of Hangzhou City", which was presided over by Yu, stated that more than 333.5 hectares (1 mu=0.066 7 hectares) of land within Huanhu Road area should be built into an open natural park. It stipulated that no building could be constructed in this area again, buildings in the area should be demolished and only few could be saved as visiting service facilities. Huanhu Park prohibited building fences, and in 1951, the park was the first one in China to build a botanical garden; in 1952, it prepared to build an open parterre; in 1956, it set aside 50 meters of green belt in the scenic area on both sides of the main road. When building the new park, it has been clearly clarified that the roadsides of the park couldn't plant trees in rows, but required to grow plants according to their natural features and constructed buildings as less as possible. When Mr. Sun Xiaoxiang designed and classified the sightseeing districts such as Fish Viewing at the Flower Pond and the Botanical Garden, he reflected Mr. Yu's thinking in an innovative and modern way. It could be said that Hangzhou combined inheritance and innovation 60 years ago, creating a new mode of Chinese landscape architecture.

After 30 years of reform and opening up, the new generation working for landscape architecture inherited the pioneering spirit of the older generation, making continuous progress in protection and construction.

In 1993, a director of Nixon's private library, who accompanied Nixon to visit China again, proposed to visit the West Lake. I introduced the sightseeing district of Fish Viewing at Flower Pond to him, and after visiting, he said: "in the past, I think the representative of oriental landscape architecture is Japanese, while now I know that the real landscape architecture art is in China." It was a remark from a west cultural scholar to the West Lake.

In the history of world landscape architecture, only Chinese landscape architecture, experiencing 3,000 years of development, has always adhered to the harmonious co-existence between human and nature, followed the style of natural landscape architecture and absorbed the good from foreign cultures and kept our own cultural genes, and therefore, we have reasons to be confident in our national culture. Chinese landscape architecture has rich cultural connotations and design systems, such as the philosophy of "harmony between human and nature", the artistic thought of "manually builtyet seemed to be created by nature", the building theory that "ingenuity lies in borrowing scenes, delicacy comes from exquisite structure", the layout principle of "opening and changing", the ecological ethics of "providing green mountains, clear waters and nostalgia" and the goal of "building a poetic dwelling in China." All of these remind us that: in the new era, we have more reasons to seek progressin the path of Chinese landscape architecture.

(Editor / Wang Yuanyuan)


Shi Dian-dong, male, born in 1939 in Chongming of Shanghai, Senior Engineer, the former Director and Chief Engineer of Hangzhou Landscape and Cultural Relics Bureau, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award of CHSLA, the Editor-in-Chief of the Landscape Architecture Volume of Encyclopedia of China (3rd Edition), Advisory Member of the Editorial Committee of Chinese Landscape Architecture

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