Four Elements

Interacting in dynamic harmony

Chinese gardens are distinctive in their symbolic use of water, stone, plants, and architecture to create a place of beauty, vibrant with flowing qi, the universal energy. These four elements manifest the opposing principles of yin (earth/receptive/dark) and yang (heaven/creative/bright). Chinese philosophy views yin and yang as the interactive, cycling forces that drive the rhythms of life. In the Chinese garden we thus experience a microcosm of the universe and an inspiring convergence of nature and culture.

Water is the nurturing yin, the life blood and living pulse of the earth. Serene in ponds, rushing and dynamic in rocky streams, water infuses the garden with vital, rejuvenating qi. In shimmering reflections of the moon and sun, stone, plants, and pavilions, we appreciate nature and the garden anew.

The strength and stability of stone balance the flowing yin of water in the rocky gorges and in structures such as bridges, courtyards, and pathways. Stone groupings soar skyward with yang energy and symbolize mountains, the abode of the Immortals, and the bones of the Earth reaching to the heavens.

Each season brings to the fore trees, shrubs, and blooms selected for their structure, texture, beauty, and deep cultural meaning. Pines symbolize endurance, bamboo flexibility, and lotus purity. Plants are sited to enhance their innate qualities and to create an intricate composition with water, stone, and architecture.

A multi-story pavilion reveals a sweeping vista, a small, open-sided one inspires pause for reflection. A teahouse beckons for refreshment and conversation, music and dance enliven a courtyard during seasonal festivals. Each Chinese garden is many gardens in which nature, the arts, and people intertwine.