The Chinese have an unusual, and I think sensible and rewarding, attitude, which goes by the name of ''borrowed scenery.'' ''Borrowed scenery'' refers to portions of the landscape which extend beyond the confines of one's own property , and add to it both geographical and psychological extensions.Skip to next paragraph
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I was recently reminded of the Chinese concept of ''borrowed scenery'' in the garden of my home. A neighbor to the south had put up, on a downward slope of grass and trees, a slight green umbrella type of structure, much like what the Chinese call ''pavilion.'' It blends into the surrounding vista and lends a new dimension to my world.
When I look down and out to ''my'' pavilion, I sense an instantaneous projection of myself into that pavilion, wherein, in its woodsy setting, I am aware only of myself and nature.
This recent acquisition is as much mine as it would be if it were really mine. It is mine to look at, mine to enjoy, mine to meditate upon, and mine through which to achieve a totally fresh perspective on my garden.
The pavilion has long been a device, in the Chinese landscape and in Chinese landscape painting, both to represent man and to offer man a spot wherein he can meditate in natural surroundings upon his place in nature. The pavilion shares identical appearance with the ''thatched hut,'' from which it is distinguished by certain minor details of architecture.
Countless artists apart from Wen Cheng-ming of Ming times, have frequently depicted the pavilion in their paintings. They range from Ni Tsan (1301-1374), a great major landscapist of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1374), who used the pavilion almost as his signature in his sparse, unhurried river views, to many artists of today.
I think the pavilion, with its neat classic linear shape, fits deftly and ideally into the pattern of the landscape, with its curvilinear design. It is modest and unassuming like the Confucian gentleman, and it is sparse and spare.
Prior to my own recent acquisition, my most dramatic encounter with the pavilion as ''borrowed scenery'' took place several years ago, when I was shown into a hotel room at night in Taipei. A Chinese-red pavilion was softly illuminated in the out-of-doors and just beyond my window. It greeted me with a shock of surprise and with its dazzling beauty. But more. It immediately, and by association, turned my mind to nature and to my involvement with all nature.
But ''borrowed scenery'' is by no means limited to the pavilion. It can and often does consist of land- and waterscapes. I have a bedroom window that overlooks a neighbor's swimming pool, which, softened by some trees, moves into my consciousness and becomes ''my'' lake. I have a friend in California whose garden has an overview of distant hills, which lend enchantment as well as depth and width and height to her own terrain, and are indeed ''borrowed scenery.'' And finally, what about the fortunate few whose overlook is of ''their'' bay, ''their'' lake, ''their'' ocean?