Keeping the past present: representations of ming dynasty gardens

Thumbnail Image

Persistent link to this item

View Statistics

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Keeping the past present: representations of ming dynasty gardens

Published Date




Thesis or Dissertation


Keeping the Past Present: Representations of Ming Dynasty Gardens This study analyzes representations of Ming dynasty (1368- 1644) gardens. It argues that rather than documenting the physical gardens as static artifacts, gardens and representations of gardens have been used to reference and comment upon the past as a way of identifying with a larger community of scholars past and present, and as a method of instructing the present. In order to both create and read the layers of allusions embedded in these gardens and their representations, one must be conversant in Chinese history, literature, and art. This dissertation exposes how certain types of images of the garden were moved from the archive to the canon (as defined by Aleida Assman) to motif, and it demonstrates the relationship between memory, identity construction, and this shift. The creation of archetypes (such as Tao Qian’s “Peach Blossom Spring” or Wang Wei’s Wangchuan) builds the archive. Some images/gardens have moved from the archive into the canon and back again, like Sima Guang’s Garden of Solitary Delight. The two Garden of the Humble Administrator albums by Wen Zhengming demonstrate a shift in style and in models; they foreshadow how some elements are foregrounded and others move closer to becoming motif. In an examination of blueand- white porcelain, I show how these forms were significantly reduced and their visibility then significantly increased: gardens can move from canon to motif. The epilogue examines three new Chinese-style gardens in the US and elucidates the difficulties of creating these re-presentations for viewers who may not grasp the allusions. The visual and written texts examined in this project were invested in keeping the past present in their own time.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. November 2012. Major: Art History. Advisor: Robert J. Poor. 1 computer file (PDF); xviii, 226 pages, appendices 1.

Related to




Series/Report Number

Funding information

Isbn identifier

Doi identifier

Previously Published Citation

Suggested citation

Brash, Carol Sue. (2012). Keeping the past present: representations of ming dynasty gardens. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

Content distributed via the University Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor. By using these files, users agree to the Terms of Use. Materials in the UDC may contain content that is disturbing and/or harmful. For more information, please see our statement on harmful content in digital repositories.