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NW 3rd and Everett, Portland, Oregon 97209  503-228-8131
About the Garden          The Borrowed View          

A Borrowed View

The Borrowed View

Suzhou gardens, enclosed within the city walls, often had to be constructed in a limited amount of space. It was therefore necessary to devise ways to make the garden appear larger than it really was. This might be accomplished in several ways: including curved walkways and zigzag bridges which require guests to take more steps to go from one end to the other, dividing the overall area into smaller gardens within gardens, and by the technique of “borrowing views.”

Scenery is borrowed both from outside and from inside the garden. Outer walls block sight of surrounding streets and nearby low buildings, while a bit of neighboring roof tile or the top of an adjacent tree adds to the picturesque views within. A garden is also situated to take advantage of a distant hill or nearby pagoda and, if these can’t be seen over the walls, a tower or hill might be built to bring them within view.

Walls enclose space, doorways and windows open it again--borrowing a little from what’s beyond. Large wall openings, called “picture windows,” are meant to frame a particular view. Through such windows, shadows cast on white walls resemble the black and white ink paintings admired by Chinese scholars. Other windows, filled with decorative patterns, are known as “leak windows” since they leak a little of the view, and some of the light, through from the other side.

The sky is also borrowed and brought into the garden by it’s reflection in the central pond--a view into another world.

With these techniques, and many more, Suzhou garden designers make the small seem large, bring in from outside, and add to our own borrowed views of a distant time and place.