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Place and Memory in the Singing Crane Garden

Place and Memory in the Singing Crane Garden

Vera Schwarcz
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Place and Memory in the Singing Crane Garden
    Book Description:

    The Singing Crane Garden in northwest Beijing has a history dense with classical artistic vision, educational experimentation, political struggle, and tragic suffering. Built by the Manchu prince Mianyu in the mid-nineteenth century, the garden was intended to serve as a refuge from the clutter of daily life near the Forbidden City. In 1860, during the Anglo-French war in China, the garden was destroyed. One hundred years later, in the 1960s, the garden served as the "ox pens," where dissident university professors were imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution. Peaceful Western involvement began in 1986, when ground was broken for the Arthur Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology. Completed in 1993, the museum and the Jillian Sackler Sculpture Garden stand on the same grounds today.

    InPlace and Memory in the Singing Crane Garden, Vera Schwarcz gives voice to this richly layered corner of China's cultural landscape. Drawing upon a range of sources from poetry to painting, Schwarcz retells the garden's complex history in her own poetic and personal voice. In her exploration of cultural survival, trauma, memory, and place, she reveals how the garden becomes a vehicle for reflection about history and language.

    Encyclopedic in conception and artistic in execution,Place and Memory in the Singing Crane Gardenis a powerful work that shows how memory and ruins can revive the spirit of individuals and cultures alike.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9173-5
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction: A Garden Made of Language and Time
    (pp. 1-30)

    Gardens are not merely earthly stuff. They occupy grounds in the mind as well. Some reach there by the beauty of their design, some by the power of their cultural symbolism. Many use both. Other gardens take up no space at all. Yet even as ruins, or as memories of ruins, they have the power to breathe life into worn words. They create spaciousness in dark times. This book explores strategies for creating spaciousness by translating what I have learned from the history of gardens into the garden that is history. It takes as its starting point a corner of...

  5. Chapter 1 Singing Cranes and Manchu Princes
    (pp. 31-77)

    You do not have to be a Confucian scholar or a Manchu prince to know the value of a place where thought can take its shape at ease. Wendell Berry, a contemporary American poet of the South, likens the garden to water in a pitcher. Nothing is simpler, less adorned, less hard to find, yet more difficult to design. A garden, if well planned, is a place where one can get away from the clutter of daily life. An effective garden scours the mind and the soul. Contemplating what the Chinese call the “bones” of the garden—be they rocks,...

  6. Chapter 2 War Invades the Garden
    (pp. 78-112)

    The catastrophe that befell Singing Crane Garden after 1860 was by no means minute. The magnitude of loss can be imagined if one listens for the sound of cranes departing. This is what historian-poet Lawrence Olson did when he suggested that departing cranes expound “invisible designs.”¹ In China, in the hamlet of Haidian, vanishing cranes and dying rivers were not merely a poetic metaphor. The cranes’ flight coincided with the collapse of Qing imperial grandeur.

    Two worldviews, two temporalities, two imperialisms collided violently in 1860 on the grounds of northwest Beijing. Singing Crane Garden with its meandering paths, fishponds, pavilions,...

  7. Chapter 3 Consciousness in the Dark Earth
    (pp. 113-147)

    Broken remains of China’s past cluttered Haidian after October 1860. The gardens that were destroyed seemed condemned to an eternity of shame and silence. Yet this was not to be. Voices and visions of renewal emerged, almost literally, out of the singed ground. How could ash-covered earth have anything new to add to history’s narrative? For an answer, it may help to turn to poets trained to listen to the unsaid, even the unsayable, that lies dormant in our spaces, as well as in our hearts. The American poet Louise Glück turned to vegetation when she sought to hear muted...

  8. Chapter 4 Red Terror on the Site of Ming He Yuan
    (pp. 148-182)

    The terror of the 1960s silenced the Yenching legacy, and the crane music of Ming He Yuan as well. Intellectuals labeled as monsters were forced to attack each other and the cultural traditions that had nurtured the garden aesthetic. Courtyards remained, but were renamed for the sake of Mao’s revolution. Stones remained, though many were smashed, gashed with knives in this outpouring of rage against history. Human minds and bodies, more vulnerable, were deemed most evil. These had to be destroyed, or at least incarcerated. Thus the niu peng were born—holding pens and torture chambers where Red Guards could...

  9. Chapter 5 Spaciousness Regained in the Museum
    (pp. 183-215)

    How does healing start on ravaged ground? By a slow-paced cherishment of broken remains. This was the process that began at Beijing University with the founding of the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology. Arthur Sackler, like the Argentinean poet Jorge Luis Borges, treasured the odds and ends of history. A psychiatrist by training, he understood that “we are our memory,” that a museum cannot fix forever the meanings of shifting forms. Dedicated to the preservation of archaeological relics and to the teaching of museology, Dr. Sackler’s institution at Beida sought to create a space for reflection on...

  10. Conclusion: The Past’s Tiered Continuum
    (pp. 216-224)

    The ground beneath the Singing Crane Garden has become over time a capacious repository for cultural memory. The ideal ofjing(contemplation) combined withdong(shifting vistas) flourished in the garden, and later in the museum. In 1860, when violence broke out in this corner of China, and in the 1960s, when the ox pens swelled with educated inmates, the ground had to whisper its wisdom in nearly silent ways: the upturned roof of the Pavilion of Winged Eaves, curving paths leading to the old island of Benevolence and Blessing, a large ornamental rock hidden from public view. Souls were...

  11. Dramatis Personae
    (pp. 225-228)
  12. Glossary of Chinese Terms
    (pp. 229-230)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 231-240)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-250)
  15. Index
    (pp. 251-260)