Scholar's rock © Shuisongshi shanfang collection

Scholar’s rock

Naturally eroded rocks, combined with streams and pools, are essential elements of a classical Chinese garden. Rocks represent mountains, which because of their height are seen as a bridge between earth and heaven. Mountain caves are said to be the home of immortal beings.

Rocks in gardens, and miniature ones collected to place on a scholar’s desk, are there to be contemplated. By studying their craggy shapes, a viewer can imagine climbing hills, entering the immortals’ caves, and feel the ease of having his or her spirit roam freely in the world.

In the Great Court you can see a contemporary interpretation of a scholar’s rock by Chinese artist Zhan Wang.

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Scholars kept miniature mountains on their desks. These are carved from jade, bamboo root, turquoise and porcelain.On this porcelain plate a lady is seated in a garden contemplating an eroded rock.

Right: On this porcelain plate a lady is seated in a garden contemplating an eroded rock.

Top left: © Shuisongshi shanfang collection