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Speaker: Greg Missingham (University of Melbourne)

In the Introduction to her 2016 book, Ideas of Chinese Gardens: Western Accounts, 1300-1860, Maria Rinaldi provides an excellent account of the history and themes of Western interest in and evaluation of Chinese gardens. This paper concentrates on the period since, 1861-2020. After noting observations on the historiography of Western writing on the gardens made by Alison Hardie, Craig Clunas and others, the paper considers the kinds of publication, their topics and themes, the countries and gender of authors and the attitudes implied as they have been distributed over that period. It is clear that the sheer number of publications per annum accelerated in the 1930s and more than doubled from 1985 onwards. Conjectural explanations consider when key academic journals began, the expansion in tertiary education in the West after WWII and the opening up of China after the Cultural Revolution.

The discussion is presented using analyses in a number of charts of the publications and their distribution over time. The data base is the author’s 2021 “On Chinese Gardens: Bibliography of Items in English, Partially Annotated”. The paper finishes with observations on several under-explored opportunities for further research.

As well as being a practicing architect, Greg Missingham has been teaching architectural design for over 40 years in four of the architecture schools in Victoria, Australia and at the national universities in Nanjing, China. He has also both lectured and published on East Asian gardens and is preparing a book on design approaches in architecture using the private Chinese garden tradition as a site of experimentation.

IHR Seminar SeriesHistory of Gardens and Landscapes