The Astor Chinese Garden Court A Reconstruction of Americans' Understanding of the Chinese Garden

Author: ORCID icon
Jiang, Yao, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Lee, Michael, AR-Landscape Dept, University of Virginia
Crane, Sheila, AR-Arch History Dept, University of Virginia
Li, Shiqiao, AR-Arch Dept, University of Virginia

This thesis focuses on the Astor Chinese Garden Court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, interrogating how this “neo-historical garden” has transformed Americans’ understanding of the Chinese Garden since its opening in 1981. Three interlocking moments and historical scales are covered in this study: the history of Astor Court’s design and construction, the broader construction history of gardens inspired by Chinese examples in the United States, and the historiography of English-language accounts of the Chinese garden study. Applied methods in this study include archival research, video-based research, field research, historical analysis, material culture study, and case study.

Accordingly, this thesis underscores three pivot points catalyzed by the creation of the Astor Court as the first Ming-style Chinese garden installation in the United States. Firstly, the Astor Court has offered an unprecedented instance of creating an overseas Chinese garden from scratch. Secondly, the realization of Astor Court was a watershed moment in the construction of gardens in the US inspired by Chinese models; one that shifted from collecting fragments to a new interest, beginning in the early 1980s, in constructing cohesive replicas—the Simulacrum Era. Thirdly, the creation of Astor Court has provided a “tangible form” through which the American audience might better understand the Chinese Garden and associated foundational garden treatises. The Astor Court constructed a paradigmatic Ming-style Chinese Garden type that catalyzed a broader shift in the 1980s and 1990s US from generalized conceptions of the Oriental Garden to closer documentary studies of the Chinese Garden, a shift that solidified the predominant focus on Ming gardens.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Astor Court, Chinese Garden, Overseas Construction
Issued Date: