As a child I'd love lying back amongst the clover staring up at the sky and losing myself amongst the 'images' in the clouds. If you let your imagination go and run wild a bit you can see the beautiful and the bizarre! The use of rock in Chinese gardens is much the same - sometimes you need to use a little imagination to understand what they are portraying.
|Foreground: Phoenix Rock. Background: Unicorn Rock|
|Left of screen: Dragon Rock. Right of screen: Tortoise Rock|
Rocks in Chinese garden design are used both structurally and sculpturally. The sculptural rocks are composed to depict mountain ranges or peaks, others are strategically positioned individually to display their human, animal or spiritual qualities. Rock is also used to provide the strong and masculine 'yang' element of the garden, balanced by the soft and feminine 'ying' of water. It is interesting then to note that the Chinese word for landscape, 'shan shui', translates to 'mountains and waters'.
As with anything created by nature, the features of rock vary greatly: colour, pattern, shape and texture, and hence each rock is prized for its individuality. Whilst some may be carved by hand, generally speaking those which occur naturally are held in higher regard. Many of the rocks used in the Chinese Gardens of Friendship were sourced locally from the NSW Central West town of Cumnock (not far from where I grew up...)
Whilst I'm not suggesting you go out and start collecting rock from the bush, I do recommend thinking about adding a sculptural element to your garden. Something with a personal meaning is always lovely, but if not, something which will draw the eye into the garden will add interest and gives the garden another level.
PS. Yes I do still love to lie amongst the clover and create cloud shapes...try it sometime it's very relaxing!