A Record of the Garden of Folly

Translated by Zhu Yayun 朱亞雲

The site of the Garden of Follies, in the southwest of Nanjing, was first developed as a garden in the Song dynasty. It was originally called the Garden of the Phoenix Terrace 鳳台園. In the early Ming, it belonged to the general Xu Da 徐達, and it was later handed down to his descendant Xu Jixun 徐繼勛, a commander of the Brocade-clad Guards 錦衣衛, who renamed it the West Garden of the Brocade-clad Guard 錦衣西園.

In 1873, Hu Enxie (胡恩燮, 1824-1892, sobriquet Xuzhai 煦齋) resigned from his post as Prefect of Suzhou and returned to his native city of Nanjing. He acquired the desolate site of the old West Garden and he built and set about constructing a new garden. He called it the Garden of Folly 愚園, although it is also commonly known as the Pleasance of the Hu Family 胡家花園. It contained a residence as well as a garden. The layout and style of the garden was inspired by Ni Zan’s 倪瓚 famous Lion Grove Garden 獅子林 in Suzhou. As a result it was acclaimed as the Lion Grove Garden of Jinling. In its heyday the Garden of Folly boasted thirty-six scenes 景 and attracted renowned government officials and scholars such as Li Hongzhang 李鴻章, Zhang Zhidong 張之洞 and Yu Yue 俞樾. The essays, poems and inscriptions celebrating the garden were are contained in the eight-volume Collection Writings on the Garden of Folly in Baixia 白下愚園集 (1894) compiled by Hu Enxie’s son, Hu Guangguo 胡光國.

The Garden of Folly was despoiled by the demobbed Qing general Zhang Xun 張勛 and his ‘Queue-wearing Troops’ when they seized the city in 1913. Two years later, Hu Guangguo returned from his sojourn in Shanghai and restored the garden to its former splendour; thirty-four new scenes were added to the original design. This revival was, however, short lived. In the early 1930s, the architect, scholar and garden connoisseur Tung Chuin 童雋 link recorded that ‘maintenance of the garden has long been neglected and the piled rocks, although still existing, are too dangerous for climbing.’ After the Sino-Japanese War, upon visiting the place the writer Lu Qian 盧前 lamented that ‘the garden has been in a state of ruin for a long time; all that remains are a few buildings, some rows of drooping willows and a shallow pond.’ During the Great Leap Forward of 1958-1959, the remaining buildings, rockeries, pavilions and trees were destroyed. All that remained of the once grand garden were the images in Zhu Xie’s 朱偰 Albums of Historical Traces and Famous Sites of Jinling 金陵古蹟圖考 add and Hedda Hammer Morrison’s Nanking.

In April 2010, the Nanjing government mooted plans to rebuild the Garden of Folly, based primarily on the site map drawn by Tung Chuin in A Record of the Gardens of Jiangnan. [Link to Duncan’s in CHQ December 2009] The reconstructed garden opened to the public on 1 May 2016. See here.

Little is known about Deng Jiaji (鄧家緝, style name Xizhi 熙之), the author of the following description of the garden, apart from the fact that he was a native of Nanjing. His association with the Hu family was, however, long standing as, in 1892, he wrote a preface for Collected Writings on the Garden of Folly in Baixia mentioned in the above.

While preparing this introduction and translation Geremie Barmé and Duncan Campbell unstintingly offered guidance and meticulous suggestions.

A Record of the Garden of Folly 愚園記 by Deng Jiaji 鄧家緝

A patch of vacant land, some several dozen mu in size, lay to the west of the Phoenix Terrace, overgrown with thickets and strewn with rubble, a site unvisited since the turmoil of the war. In former times it had been the West Garden of Xu Da, King Zhongshan of the Ming. Hu Enxie, the Prefect of Suzhou purchased it and took delight in its serenity and spaciousness. He then exchanged his city properties and the Hall of Venerating Goodness for the idle plot so as to expand his estate. Conforming to the contours of the land, and measuring the surface of the ground, he built thereupon a new garden that is now a wonderland of halls, studios, terraces, pavilions, slopes and ponds. It embraces the varied beauties of grove and spring, flower and rock, fish and bird. Great and spacious in size, the garden is truly a splendid sight. It has become the most noted place for banquets and parties in our age. Indeed, people flock to this garden in preference to any other place in the provincial capital. 鳳凰台西隙地數十畝,榛蕪蔽塞,瓦礫縱橫,兵燹以來,窅無人跡,舊為明中山徐王西園。煦齋太守樂其幽曠,貨而有之,又以市產與崇善堂易余之閑地,因高就下,度地面勢,有宮室台榭坡池之勝,林泉花石魚鳥之美,規模宏敞,郁為巨觀,一時宴游,於是焉萃。信乎人物之盛,甲於會城者矣!

With an east-facing gate, the garden’s frontage abuts Bleating Sheep Street and at its back it borders upon the Hill of Flowers and Dew, where the Garden of Retreat, built by Gu Qiyuan, once stood during the Ming. Inside the gate are several rows of pleasant and airy houses facing north-south, their beams, columns, joists and brackets being variously lacquered, painted, carved, engraved and colourfully decorated. Herein resides Prefect Hu’s revered Mother and it is also where his family has their residence. The garden, which its master has named the ‘Garden of Folly’, lies to the west of these buildings, and Chen Huchen of Shidai county wrote the inscription for it. 門東向,臨鳴羊街,后倚花露崗。明之時有遯園,顧文庄之所筑也。門以內,櫨欂節梲、髹漆雕繪,南北相向,爽塏之屋數重,奉太夫人居養於內,且以安其家室焉。屋之西,別為園,主人名之曰‘愚’,石埭陳先生虎臣顏其額。

From this gate one enters the garden and winds one’s way along the covered walkway to the north. Then a westward turn reveals a chiselled stone embedded in the wall with the words ‘Tranquility of Living’ in the master’s own hand inscribed on it. Meandering further up to the west, the corridor broadens slightly into a pavilion with railings, named the Pavilion of Overhanging Shade. A few desks and chairs are placed here for visitors to enjoy a moment’s respite. The master of the garden had an opening made in a wall which was fitted with a closed door, implying thereby that the realm encompassed by the garden was without limit. 自是入園,繞廊,北繞而西,鑱石曰:‘寄安’,主人自書之,嵌於壁。又逶迤西上,稍拓為欄,曰:‘分蔭軒’,置幾案數事,游客得以少憩。鑿壁為門,闔之,以示境之不可窮。

Taking a turn to the south one arrives at the Study of No-Retreat—a villa of three south-facing rooms—and at its back there is a room for bathing. Four or five cassia, cockscombs, amaranths and other assorted flowers grow in the courtyard. Their intense fragrance wafts in the breeze; their hues transmute in the soaking rain; they bring coolness in deep autumn; and their colour and their aroma seeps in all directions. Ten paces to the left of this yard is the Hall of Spring Brilliance. At its rear various kinds of peonies are grown and at the front lies a pond lined with rocks, lush water lilies and duckweed floating on the translucent water. Next to the pond sitting among piles of stones and set in a hollow stands a small gazebo. A high and steep rock garden with its myriad shapes surrounds the gazebo, and the left exit of the gazebo leads to a hall. Following the rock garden in a westerly direction and clambering up zigzagging stone steps to its peak, one sees a solitary kiosk positioned like a bird about to take off. There a pump draws water from the pond to create a waterfall which flows back into the pond. The sound of the flowing water plunks like the sound of a zither being played. 轉而南下,至於無隱精舍,而南屋三楹,后為澡浴之室。庭中植桂四、五株,雜藝雞冠、老少年之屬,馥烈以風,陸離染雨,深秋送涼,香色四溢。庭左數十步,為春暉堂。其后蒔鼠姑花數種,其前甃石為池,荇草漾碧,水清見底。池側有小閣,窪然居累石中。兩旁皆假山,囗[山加含]岈嶔崎,歷落萬狀。閣左出,乃達於堂。循假山而西,登道盤折,而躋於巔,孤亭聳峙,若飛鳥之將翔。以機引曲池水為瀑布,返瀉於池,錚錚聲若琴筑。

The rock garden to the east of the pond appears to imitate Master Ni Zan’s Lion Grove Garden [in Suzhou]. With its mounted stones forming empty caves, its twisting trails ascending here and descending there, and its narrow paths virtually inaccessible, visitors can but stare at it, often too dazed to find their way out. This rock garden faces squarely the western rockery, and both lead to a hall. This hall, spacious and bright with well-designed rooms, is truly a wonderful site in the garden. It is called the Hall of Purity and Profundity and its name is inscribed in the hand of the governor Zhang Zhiwan. The calligraphy on the columns was provided by my teacher Xue Shiyu of Quanjiao county; and the wooden boards hanging on the walls are filled with odes and poems by contemporary writers. Entering the right side of the hall one encounters the Residence of Water and Rocks which faces a limpid lake. The lake is some several mu in size and blooms with lotuses which are clumped here and scattered there, their rouge corolla emitting yellow pollen complementing well their verdant shady leaves. 其東仿倪高士獅子林,疊石空洞,曲道宛轉,忽升以高,忽降以下,徑若咫尺,而不可以跨越,游者眙眩,幾迷出路。與西山相對峙,皆可以來會於堂下。斯堂軒豁洞敞,列屋延袤,為一園之勝,署曰:‘清遠堂’,張子青中丞所書,其楹帖則我師全椒薜先生撰也。壁間榜時人題詠皆滿。入其右,為水石居,前臨清塘,大可數畝,芙蕖作花,疏密間雜,紅房墜粉,掩映翠蓋。

During the long summer when the windows facing the south are all thrown open, the fragrance of the lotus steals in wafted on a warm southerly breeze. At times lurking fish leap out of the waves in the pond; birds flock here; and leaning on a balustrade with robes untied, one is relieved from the cares brought on by the humidity. On the lake a small boat shaped like a melon floats wherein two or three people can row their way deep among the lotus blossoms. When the crescent moon hangs in the sky and floats on the glimmering water, silk-stringed and woodwind instruments play joyously, the swelling and flowing tunes startling the roosting birds and sending them into hasty flight, their chirps and calls in harmony with the music. To the left side of the hall there is a secluded chamber where the master practices his zither and plays a repertoire for visitors who are indifferent to worldly affairs. Atop that chamber a perch commands a view of the rock garden. 長夏南窗畢啟,薰風徐來,荷香暗襲,時有潛魚躍波,翠禽翔集,倚欄披襟,溽暑蕩滌。塘泛瓜皮小艇,可容兩三人弄棹於藕花深處,新月在天,水光上浮,絲管競作,激越音流,棲禽驚飛,吱吱格格與竹肉之聲相和。堂之左,連闥洞房,為主人操之所,素心人來,作一弄。其上有閣,可以望假山。

Upon unbolting the back door here, one comes across a small path that twists and turns like a goat’s intestines, traced out by a thin wicker fence; amid a thick bamboo grove rests the House of Bamboo Cove where, with its windows open and covered in jade-coloured gauze, one enjoys the green shade and the quiet of the day, refreshed and cool although it is midsummer. Thereafter one can stroll south following the hedges to arrive at the Thatched Cottage of Cultivation and Tillage, which, unrepaired and unpainted, is orderly and simple as a rustic cottage. Close by stands the Cogon Hut where water is drawn to raise geese and ducks. Directly west is the lake, the water of which is used to irrigate the a few mu of paddy fields growing black millet. The master himself sometimes pulls the shadoof and learns to water the fields. The autumn harvest is sufficient for festive sacrifices. 啟后戶,曲徑如羊腸,繚以疏籬,中為‘竹塢’,軒窗四辟,罥以碧紗,綠陰晝靜,當暑蕭爽。循籬南行,至‘課耕草堂’,不剪茨,不丹漆,規制儉朴,略如農家。旁列茅亭,引水蓄鵝鹜,正西面塘,溉水田畝許,種黑秬,主人或親挽桔槔學灌園,秋獲足以供祭。

On the south border of the lake and to the north of the Thatched Cottage is the Hall of Autumn Waters and Young Reeds, surrounded by limpid water and glistening trees; it is a landscape of tranquility and lushness. A long causeway runs along the lake; on fine vernal and autumnal days oleanders, weeping willows, hibiscuses and exotic flora bloom resplendently like Nanking Cloud Brocade. A stroll of fewer than a hundred paces to the south along the causeway brings one to a tall tower that looms majestically on the crest of a mound, where around three hundred flowering apricot trees are planted, their branches and stems tightly entangled like steel. On occasion a few calls of the cranes rise from the foot of this flowering apricot hill. Ascending the tower and gazing into the distance, the hills in the northeast appear occasionally from behind a shroud of mist and cloud, and seem as close to each other as if sitting upon adjoining mats. Thus the tower is named ‘Inviting Blueness’. At times the thriving trees in the southerly direction are seen to be caressing the surface of the clouds, this being the reason for the name of the Pavilion of Overhanging Shade. 就水南為榭,居草堂之北陰,是為‘秋水蒹葭之館’,水木鳴瑟,湛然清華。沿塘筑長堤,夾樹桃、柳、芙蓉、雜花異卉,春秋佳日,燦若雲錦。循堤而南不百步,有高閣窿然踞岡阜之上,梅花幾三百本,枝干虬曲如鐵,時有清鶴數聲,起於梅崦之下。登閣而眺,東北諸山,煙雲出沒,如接幾席,因名閣曰:‘延青’。時見南鄰茂樹,拂郁雲表,分蔭軒所由名也。

Descending the uneven slope to the east, then crossing a stone bridge one arrives at Master Hu’s ancestral shrine. It is directly south of the Hall of Purity and Profundity. At times the Hu family assembles inside to perform rites and rituals, and when the formalities are over the gate is closed so visitors can rarely even steal a glimpse of the shrine. From here one passes by a wall and spies a little hill of varied contours and then, after mounting a flight of approximately one hundred steps, one comes upon several east-facing rooms surrounded by thick bamboo hedges and the beguiling red blooms of eight or nine begonia shrubs. This is the Study of Spring Slumber. A view of the backyard of the Study reveals an orchard; the greens and yellows of peach, prune, plum, apricot and loquat are plentiful, delectable and ready for harvesting. 坡陀東下,渡石橋,北與清遠堂正對,為主人家祠,時聚子孫習禮其中,祭畢,合其扉,游人希得窺也。度垣得小丘,若岯若岊,拾級百步許,有面東之屋數楹,編竹為藩籬,海堂八九株,花時嫣紅欲滴,為‘春睡軒’。后瞰果圃,多桃、李、梅、杏、枇杷,青黃累累,鮮美可摘。

Taking leave of the wicket gate, one immediately arrives at the eastern causeway of the lake. Next to it is a waterside pavilion inscribed with the name Glistening Waves by the Willowy Bank. It emulates the erstwhile horizontal tablet by Bao Shichen and is particularly fitting for this site. Over on the other side of the lake one spots the Thatched Cottage of Cultivation and Tillage, the scenery reminding one of a rustic life. There is another hall on the east, close and connected. A vermillion bridge with green balustrades traverses the lake, under which people in the boat come and go singing joyfully. Crossing over the bridge one finds oneself on a winding path that circles back upon itself, and above, trellises covered with hanging grapevines and a canopy of leaves serve to occlude the sun. Entering a west-facing door, adjacent to the Residence of Water and Rocks, one then sees a three-room tower, wherein thousands of scrolls are stored and arranged like standing screens, and the master frequently recites poetry and composes prose there. Following the tower to the east, one arrives directly at the winding corridors, which lead again to the Study of No-Retreat. 出籬門,值塘之東堤,堤旁臨水榭,暑曰:‘柳岸波光’,撫包先生慎伯舊榜,而於此地為特宜。隔岸望‘課耕草堂’,風景如在村落間。又東一堂,扣而通之,朱橋碧欄,橫亙於上,泛艇之人,往來放歌於其下。度橋,彎環曲徑,葡萄連架,覆蔓垂藤,綠蔭蔽日。入西向一門,為樓三楹,與水石居相近,其中積軸萬卷,庋置如屏,主人每吟嘯其上,弄丹黃也。循樓而東,直達回廊,復與無隱精舍接矣。

In this garden each site commands a breathtaking view, and yet vaguely there exists a general boundary between the inner and the outer domains, as any visitor to the garden can discern. The inner garden ranges from the west of the corridors to the Tower of Book Depository, and the outer garden covers all the sites along the causeway from the west of the Book Depository to the House of Bamboo Cove in the east. People who visit the garden need a whole day to enjoy all of its scenes. Upon leaving the Bamboo Cove one finds another gate that affords egress. Visiting acquaintances, if they happen to miss seeing the master, can take their leave of the garden through this gate after viewing its entirety. 凡斯園之中,各據勝概,而隱有內外之概限。游茲園者,自回廊以西,至藏書樓為內園;自藏樓以西,循長堤、東至’竹塢’為外園;必窮日登覽始遍。‘竹塢’東出,別有門可通往來,與主人相識者來游,或不見主人,縱觀周歷而去。

The master, whenever free from his official duties, delights in drinking with his guests to their heart’s content. In this manner he whiles away his days, blissfully unaware of the approach of old age. He is a man of unbridled talent, both generous and remarkable. During the rebellion of the Guangdong bandits, he braved bare swords to sneak into the city and conspired to retake power, but the plan was revealed and foiled, although he escaped unscathed. Though falling on hard times and impoverished, he had many supporters on whom to rely, so were he to engage in worldly affairs he could demonstrate his enterprise. How could he be self-exiled in woods and streams and devote his old age to the ‘Garden of Follies’? But again how could ordinary gardens match this place’s layout and construction? I understand that in this world prosperity and decline is a constant and rise and fall knows no end, and yet the advancement of one’s name depends on the merit of an individual. 主人奉板輿之暇,樂與賓客觴詠,以娛其天,煦煦焉不知老之將至也。主人負不羈才,慷爽多奇氣,粵寇之亂,冒白刃出入城中,謀恢復,事泄不果,跳身而免,雖窮厄困極,賴以振拔者甚眾,苟遇於世,將有所以見于天下,豈其自放林泉,托于‘愚’以終老耶?然其經營布置,又豈尋常所可及哉!吾觀天下盛衰興廢之事相尋無窮,而名之傳要必以人為重。

This garden was the villa of a distinguished general in the time of the Ming, then neighbouring the Garden of Retreat, the Studio of Flavours and the Garden of Ocean Stones; in their flourishing days the groves and pavilions stood majestically and influential families mixed here. All have fallen into ruin; all that remains is their names. There is no question that the lasting fame of the Garden of Follies relies on the reputation of its master. I hereby have merely described its appearance and contours and list the names of its places of interest so that it can be known to visitors. Thereby I judge the merit of the master of the garden. What do you make of this? 斯園於明為元勛別墅,其鄰近若’遯園’、‘味齋’、‘海石園’,當其盛時,林亭甲第蔚然相望,今皆消沈刬滅,而其名尚存,則斯園之必賴主人以傳,又何疑焉。予第述其形勢,列序其名,以諗游者,且質之主人,以為何如?

Recorded in the twelfth month of the fourth year of the
reign of the Guangxu emperor [1878]