The Transformation of Domestic Gardens in Shanghai
Tongji University, Shanghai, China
This paper examines the transformation of domestic gardens in Shanghai in the first half of the twentieth century. Shanghai is located in the Lower Yangtze River region where a large number of Chinese classical gardens were built during the Ming-Qing period. With a series of encroachments by Western powers opened up by the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, the city became a multinational hub of finance and business. The early twentieth century witnessed a radical shift in domestic garden design: instead of building Chinese classical gardens in their backyards, the rich adopted British landscape gardens.
This paper explores a number of aspects of this transition. It will first investigate on what grounds British landscape gardens replaced Chinese classical gardens. It will then offer a comparative study between Chinese classical gardens and British landscape gardens, focusing on the design and planning rationales of their basic elements (e.g., water, plants, rocks, buildings, etc.). The paper will provide an analysis of the shifting cultural imaginations associated with domestic garden design and their implications for the historical development of city parks. It argues that the changed local taste and consumer culture in relation to private gardens prepared a basis for the development of modern public parks in the city.