Last week I went to #Biddulph Grange Garden in Staffordshire. Created by James Bateman in between the 1830s and 1860s, who displayed many of the plants that had been collected by the plant expeditions to Asia and America that he financed in the garden Since the 1960s it has been restored and maintained by the #NationalTrust. It is a glorious exercise in creating lots of themed gardens in comparatively little space. Most people go for the glorious Dahlias, but the idea for me was to have a look at the Chinese Garden which I want to include in my day school on #China in the 19th century for MANCENT. It is one of the first attempts in Britain to create a Classical Chinese garden similar to those of the World Heritage Site at Suzhou. Given the problems of the available descriptions and limited range of images and plants that could be used, it is a truly beautiful piece of reception (strange mistakes notwithstanding), copying the main elements of the Lake, the Wilderness, and the meandering ways for contemplation, as well as the viewing terrace and even an isolated teahouse. Even the axis towards a tall feature in the distance is there (alas not a pagoda, but a monkey puzzle tree).
The relationship between China and the West in the 19th century was fraught, no doubt about it. But it is also worth remembering that in between these mountains of problems, there were people who were trying to engage with the Chinese culture and tried to understand it better.