Huan Cui Tang, 1600

View the handscroll

'Huan Cui Tang' 環翠堂 refers to a notable literati project – a woodblock print handscroll of a remarkable garden envisaged as both a place of pleasure and a metaphor for living in the world. The scroll prsents a narrative journey through varied settings, experiences and encounters, linking man and nature, history and play, reassurance and exploration. The broad humanistic aspirations as well as the material and psychological complexity of the handscroll have been an inspiration for our approach to literati art and culture.

The 坐隱園 ('sitting, hidden, garden') was constructed in northern Xiuning County (休寧縣 ), near the Yellow Mountains 黃山 of Anhui around 1600 by WANG Tingne 汪廷訥 (1573-1619) a well-known Anhui dramatist, publisher and wealthy connoisseur. A project of sophisticated Wanli epoch society, the garden was planned with the assistance of leading painters and cultural figures. It was then celebrated in a widely circulated woodblock print scroll (環翠堂園景圖 ) the sketch for which was produced by the Wu School 吴派(Suzhou) painter QIAN Gong 錢貢 and the carving undertaken by HUANG Yingzu 黃應組. The handscoll print itself is one of the finer works of the vast Ming publishing phenomenon.

Alive in contemporary consciousness for only a generation, the garden seems to have fallen into disuse and decay sometime after the fall of the Ming dynasty (1644). Mountainous Anhui became a relatively poorer region thereafter. Traces of the garden remained visible until recent years when road-building and property development spread over the region.

In modern times, the handscroll print has been reproduced in several facsimile editions. We were introduced to it by the Suzhou painter and garden designer YE Fang 葉放 some years ago.

We present the scroll with brief commentary, separated into more than forty 'pages' by a modern facsimile edition.