RAS Art Focus Group

The Pottery Workshop

Chinese Scholar Rocks in Persian Gardens

Speaker: Gabriel Meredith

In Chinese garden architecture, rocks are an important part of design. Chinese literati rocks are well known in East Asia as a vital cultural phenomenon. From Korea and Japan to Vietnam and Thailand, paintings of this craggy rock are influenced by centuries of rock collecting practices in East Asia.

Depictions of these Chinese rocks, however, are also found in paintings a thousand years old from an unlikely region: Iran. How is it possible that medieval paintings of Timur illustrate the Central Asian conqueror in a classical Chinese garden, sitting by the Taihu rocks you see in Fuxing Park and Yu Yuan?

Piecing together the historical and philosophical context of rock collecting in China, Gabriel Meredith traces the spread of garden rock depictions from China to Iran, analyzing the methods of transmission and the reasons for the strong, widespread reception of Chinese rocks in Persian gardens.

About the speaker:

Gabriel Meredith recently received his master’s degree in the History of Art and Archaeology from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Growing up in Shanghai, Gabriel spent his childhood exploring classical gardens and antique markets. For his undergraduate education, Gabriel dual-majored in Art History and Chinese Studies, developing a passion for the art and architecture of the Silk Road.

Observing the extensive connections between Chinese art and Islamic art during his time working at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Gabriel chose to write his master’s dissertation on the garden rocks from his childhood, sharing this special aspect of Chinese culture that has been appreciated all over the world.

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