China Landscape Design | A Journey Through Time

by Allen Quay

in Travel

Landscape design architecture in China has seen many changes in the past decades, shifting from what was once a delicate art form with spiritual foundations to contemporary designs similar to those found in western landscaping.

The growing Asian population has created smaller spaces for landscape design and decreased vegetation has added to the country’s environmental problems.

Landscape design architecture in China is about creating a need for a balanced form of landscaping that retains the traditional Chinese gardens while addressing the ecological concerns of the area.


Traditional Chinese Landscape Design

Classic Chinese gardens were designed for spiritual reflection, inspiration, and renewal. Similar to Japanese landscaping styles, these outdoor spaces incorporated water features, rocks, and vegetation and typically mirrored the spiritual elements of feng-shui.

landscape design architecture in China

Imperial gardens were expansive, spanning several acres with majestic flowers, symbolic trees, and an assortment of smaller gardens designed for specific purposes.

Urban oriental gardens were typically constructed on much less land, but were carefully designed to appear large and to hold a number of relaxing, natural features.

Ornamental gardens have also been an important part of traditional Chinese landscaping, showcasing the significant peach blossoms and an array of functional herbs and vegetables.

The South China Botanical Gardens – Chinese Academy of Sciences is one of the largest gardens in China and has a nursery and exhibition zone ‘The Arboretum’, a research and residential zone and the Dinghushan Nature Reserve which is the first national nature reserve in China.


Modern Landscaping in China

landscape design architecture in China

Rapid urbanization and population growth has dramatically changed the landscapes in China.

Land once devoted to agriculture has been replaced with skyscrapers, while ornamental gardens and sacred forests are now home to vast freeways and new developments.

Environmental struggles have also emerged as a consequence of these new trends, creating deserts and eliminating wetlands. Present landscape design architecture in China is often materialistic, with grandeur walls and extensive hardscaping.

Vegetation typically includes ornamental, non-native plants that require a great deal of maintenance. Spiritual and cultural elements of traditional oriental gardens have been replaced with designs that lack the artistic flair and careful planning of the past.


Achieving Balance in Contemporary Asian Design

Today’s architects working on landscape design architecture in China are seeking new design techniques that fulfill the needs of modern living while also integrating the elements of traditional Chinese gardens. Landscaping styles that protect the area’s limited natural resources are equally important.

These methods include:

• Vertical and layered landscaping: Limited space has eliminated a great deal of vegetation in this region of Asia.A vertical approach to garden design allows residents to enjoy lush gardens that support the ecological system without requiring large amounts of land. Plants with similar needs are arranged in mass plantings to minimize maintenance and reduce consumption, while providing a full and vibrant appearance.

landscape design architecture in China
  • Green roofs: Still growing in popularity, rooftop plantings are another technique that make the most of available space. These rooftop gardens aid in carbon capture to decrease pollution without sacrificing limited outdoor space, but green roofs require careful planning and increased maintenance.


  • Diverse land usage: Especially in commercial sites and residential development, a landscape design that serves multiple purposes is a necessity. Modern design architects are planning spaces that protect against floods and natural disasters while also providing recreational space, commute routes, and functional gardens. Carefully planned outdoor spaces can decrease the need for additional land usage and also integrate the spiritual and cultural elements common in traditional Chinese gardens.

A blend of contemporary and traditional landscaping is the goal of modern landscape design architecture in China. With the right landscape planning, an oriental garden that is reflective and functional can be easily achieved regardless of the space available.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John Davenport December 6, 2012 at 11:07 pm

One of the areas where China has excelled in landscapes is the use of pervious concrete. This hardscape allows rainwater to penetrate the surface. It is a excellent storm water management systemem and China has more pervious concrete then anywhere including at the Birds Nest in Beijing. The leading company for this in China and Asia is Orangestone Construction Technology.


2 Allen Quay December 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Good point John! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Beijing’s Bird Nest. It’s the $423 million dollar award winning stadium that hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in China.

Pervious concrete reduces runoff and allows for groundwater recharge making it a wonderful sustainable product. The subject is so vast that we really need to do an article on the topic.


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