Xiang Shan Guild: The artists be­hind China’s botan­i­cal master­pieces

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE | ART - By ED ZHANG

Stu­dents of Chi­nese gar­den art all knowabout theXiang Shan Guild or the Xiang Shan Gong­fang (Stu­dio) — as they built Suzhou’s beau­ti­ful gar­dens and Bei­jing’s mag­nif­i­cent For­bid­den City.

But the Xiang Shan Guild just im­por­tant his­tor­i­cally.

Suzhoucould nothave­main­tained is not its an­cient gar­den court­yards, rec­og­nized as world her­itage, with­out the Xiang Shan gar­den masters.

When he was young, Xue Lin­gen, one of the cur­rent lead­ers of the Xiang Shan Guild, says he worked on the main­te­nance of all of Suzhou’s key his­tor­i­cal scenic sites which are open to the pub­lic -- “al­to­gether 18 gar­dens and three hills”.

The Xiang Shan Guild still rep­re­sents the peak of Chi­nese gar­den build­ing, says Xue “be­cause ours is an all-round sys­tem al­though we’re also try­ing to use com­puter-aided de­sign.

“We have master ma­sons, me be­ing one of them. Our most chal­leng­ing work is to con­ceive and im­ple­ment rooftop art for dif­fer­ent build­ings.

“We have master wood­work­ers, who are again di­vided into grand wood­work­ers to erect the main struc­ture, and fine wood­work­ers to do carv­ing on the door or win­dow frames.

“We have master stone­ma­sons. Other than cut­ting and carv­ing the stone build­ing ma­te­ri­als, they also look af­ter the se­lect­ing and plac­ing of dec­o­ra­tive rocks in the gar­den.

“We have master painters who spe­cial­ize in col­or­ing and draw­ing in the build­ings.”

There are also spe­cial­ists in so-called green work, mean­ing se­lect­ing and main­tain­ing the plants in a gar­den.

“What we have is a full sys­tem, more com­pre­hen­sive and bet­ter­pro­tected than the gar­den build­ing tra­di­tions de­vel­oped in other places in China,” says Xue. pic­ture

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