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Hunting and Communion with the Spirits

The classic Chinese gardens originate from very ancient times. According to records dating way back to the 21st Century B.C., there was already the practice of raising and breeding wild animals for the pleasure of the kings and monarchs’ loving of hunting,and these enclosures were known as “You”. The kings of the Shang Dynasty (circa.16th-11th Century B.C.) liked to build high platforms inside the “You” so that they could observe the skies and pay their respects to the gods. These were called Lingtai or spiritual platforms.

The platforms were built out of earth, and were of incredibly large size. In “Xinxu Cishe” it says-”King Zhou built the deer platform, which took him seven years to complete. It had a length of 3 li (note: 1 km=2 li) and a height of 1,000 chi (note: 1 meter = 3 chi), so that he could observe the clouds and rain at his pleasure.”This description seems a bit exaggerated, but it is a fact that platforms built in the Shang Dynasty were truly very large and high.

Serving as places for hunting and communion with the spirits were the earliest two functions of the Chinese garden. At the end of the Spring and Autumn Period (722 B.C.-481 B.C.), dukes and princes became very numerous, and all the small states began to compete in building palaces, chambers, gardens and platforms. An age of extravagance and hedonism was ushered in, and a change in the nature of the platforms, pavilions and gardens began to take place.

Platforms which excluded common people in ancient times did not The famed Guilin landscape has enchanted numerous posts and scholars for thousends of yearsThe famed Guilin landscape has enchanted numerous posts and scholars for thousends of years symbolize the sacred and unattainable anymore. As the form of the state gradually matured, and social activities such as rites, politics and daily life were increasingly clarified, the platforms in gardens did not strive for size and height anymore, but began to form a close structural connection with the surrounding structures. The fog of primitive religion began to slowly disperse, which revealed the innate beauty of the scenery of nature. People began to move away from the blind worship of supernatural powers, and learned to really enjoy and understand the beauty that nature has bestowed us.

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