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An Imagination of the Chinese Shangri-La in a Western Way: Zhang Garden in Shanghai (1882–1918)

Xiangpin Zhou, Tongji University, China, Summer Fellow 2012

My research on the Zhang Garden of Shanghai (1882–1918) progressed significantly during my term as a Summer Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks. As one of the city’s most attractive urban spaces for the public, Zhang Garden was built and operated as a hybrid of western and traditional Chinese garden cultures. My goal was to reconstruct and analyze its garden design, then to reveal the relationship between spatial characteristics and functions. During my stay, I was able to reconstruct the landscape layout of Zhang Garden based on both textual and visual resources. I also demonstrated that the hybrid spatial layout and garden elements had crucial influences on the occurrence of various recreational and gathering activities. In addition to benefitting from valuable communication with other fellows, I expanded my research scope from Zhang Garden to pleasure gardens in other countries (e.g. Vauxhall), and made a useful and comprehensive comparison of them. I am drafting two journal papers. One focuses on the evolution of the style and functions of Zhang Garden, while the other is an exploratory analysis of the appearance, construction, and public preference for pleasure gardens in general within societies at the turn of the last century. I am deeply grateful for discussions with many scholars in the Garden and Landscape Studies as well as other departments, the patient support of librarians, and the abundant resources that made my experience at Dumbarton Oaks beneficial and enjoyable.