cover image Oriental Gardens

Oriental Gardens

Chronicle Books, Norah Titley. Chronicle Books, $24.95 (125pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-0132-4

This pretty picture book only flirts with garden history. Despite the caveat, it's a pleasant and valuable survey of gardens in Asian art. Titley, former curator of Turkish and Persian manuscripts in the British Library Oriental Collections, and Wood, head of the Chinese Section in the British Library Oriental Collection, have marshalled an impressive and beautiful series of 120 illustrations (Mughal paintings, Chinese prints), added a good deal of their own expertise on Ottoman Turkey, Iran, India, China, Japan and Southeast Asia and offered a detailed account of the different purposes that gardens served in these cultures. The longest chapters treat the rich history of gardening in China and Japan and the evolution there of large ``parks'' for hunting and relaxation into more intimate spaces for meditation. Both traditions share such features as bonsai ( pen cai in China), tea houses and water gardens and yielded the first gardening manuals as merchants and government officials began to imitate imperial (and in Japan religious) examples. (Feb.)