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Home > Worldwide Gardening > Chinese Garden > Completeness
Completeness in Chinese Gardening
A well-designed garden recreated within limited space a complete ambiance (environment), gave isolation, and serenity, with a feeling that there is nothing lacking, nothing superfluous. This principle was present not only in designing the vast imperial gardens, but also in much smaller gardens, especially among urban residents, where miniature models of natural land forms were the only possibility. Chinese designers created gardens that were meaningful, beautiful, and complete (yόan), even under space restrictions, and that was possible with the principles of "relativity of large, and small," and "all in one, one in all," developed in Taoism and Hua-yen.

Yόan means round, or complete. Other traditions (Ancient Greece, Medieval Europe) also related roundness, completeness, and perfection. Completeness as a principle of Chinese philosophy of art, is present in various contexts. (a) Considering large and small this means that the work of art should be complete (with nothing lacking), no matter how small, and the unity and coherence (with nothing superfluous), no matter how large. (b) A valuable work of art retains its completeness even when damaged. Osvald Siren, who discovered many Chinese gardens, neglected and in bad condition, said: "What has stood most clearly in my recollection, were not the formal elements of the gardens, but the impressions of them as a whole, the atmosphere and the emotional values attaching to this...despite the far advanced decay that has overtaken them...a certain measure of living charm and expressiveness." (c) Considering finished or unfinished work, completeness is an inner proportion, meaning that art-works are complete even when they seem unfinished from some general point (`unfinished,` or sketchy types of works exist in the Ch`an tradition). On the other hand, some art-works are overdone (`over-finished`), and it would be better if the artist stopped before he did. The work is overdone when the artist tries to enhance the impression through `overdoing.` (d) Each work of art has an inherent balance between the main construct and details. Too many details suggest an `overdone` work, overburdened with details.
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