by Evan Mantyk, Contributing Writer
Walking through the circular entrance, an elegant world in harmony with nature unfolds before the eyes…
While gentlemen ruled the Imperial Court and the courts of local governments, the ladies of ancient China were Matrons of the Manor who reigned in imperial and noble courtyards across the land.
“The courtyard was the symbol of a serene and harmonious life,” said China scholar Dr. Tianliang Zhang.
The Chinese courtyard is often featured in Shen Yun dances from various dynasties, such as the dance “Courtyard Elegance,” which is set in the Qing Dynasty.
“When Shen Yun performed the piece, it demonstrated the elegance and beauty of the ladies who lived there,” said Dr. Zhang.
However, the English word “courtyard” does not quite capture the Chinese concept for a courtyard (Tíngyuàn 庭院). This concept is not be complete without features that blend the man-made with the natural.
“There may be a pavilion in the middle of a pond filled with lotus flowers, a bridge across a creek, rocks arranged or chiseled to look like mountains, carefully trimmed trees and flowers. There may be an office area and residence area, or even a theater. The Summer Palace is a typical such courtyard, though its scale is much larger,” said Dr. Zhang.
Doorways in the courtyard were viewed as windows, and they took on interesting shapes or were adorned with patterns. Entering the courtyard was entering a realm of elegance and grace.
“It made people feel the connection between human beings and nature,” said Dr. Zhang.
Traditionally, a wealthy Chinese manor included at least three generations, children, parents, and grandparents, and typically extended family and many servants. The buildings they occupied roughly formed a square. In the center was the courtyard. Here, you would find, wrapped in a harmonious blend of nature and architecture, beautiful ladies engaged in embroidery, painting, calligraphy, and music. The ladies may also simply relax, going for a stroll or playing a game of chess.
“When important visitors came, this was the place to entertain them and show them something truly spectacular,” said Dr. Zhang.
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