Yuming HuFollow


The influence of Chinese garden-designing aesthetics in Britain is inseparable from the spread of Confucianism to the West. The British saw several similarities between Confucian philosophy and European deism, as both opposed divine revelation and advocated learning from nature. The former was deemed superior due to its long history. Through the cultural appropriation of British deism, Chinese language, statecraft, religion and art were all seen as “natural.” Pope regarded Chinese gardens as “great and wild,” and he strongly believed that Chinese garden designers, with their superb craftsmanship, succeeded in reproducing the “primitive state” of nature and the “universal order” of God's creation. Concealing artifice in nature is the common goal that both Chinese garden designing and Pope's neoclassicism endeavor to achieve. Therefore, it was the valorization of “naturalness,” not the aesthetics of irregularity, that endeared Chinese gardens to prominent cultural figures like Pope and ensured its broader influence in Britain beyond the debates of the cultural elite.


Alexander Pope, Arthur O. Lovejoy, Chinese gardens, beauty of irregularity, deism