Civil War, Revolutionary Heritage, and the Chinese Garden

Tobie Meyer-Fong, Johns Hopkins University
Zhan yuan, Nanjing, 2013. Photo taken by the author.
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The Chinese garden now symbolizes timeless national, cultural, and aesthetic values. But as real property in the past, gardens inevitably were subject to the vicissitudes of their times. This article focuses on gardens and the Taiping Civil War (1851–1864). During the war, many gardens were reduced to tile shards and ash. Surviving gardens functioned as objects of longing and nostalgia, sites of refuge (physical and emotional), or a means to display status under the new regime. In the postwar period, gardens served as status symbols, places to commemorate loss or celebrate restoration, and venues for renewed sociability. This article uses a series of case studies to explore the multiple meanings associated with gardens, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, and the Qing dynasty—in the past and today.

Keywords: Chinese gardens, Suzhou, Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, Yangzhou, Hangzhou, Qing dynasty, Nanjing, cultural heritage, tourism