Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

East Asian Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

Nancy S. Steinhardt


This dissertation investigates the Suzhou garden Yipu through a close examination of its history, perception, and modernist legacy. Through delving into all the available textual and pictorial materials including local gazetteers, literati essays, poems, paintings, epigraphic records, pre-modern travel guides, street names, and on-site observations, the first chapter periodizes Yipu’s history into five phases according to its physical transformation, and reconstructs the layout for each phase. Such examination breaks the bulky history of Yipu into small sections that allow details of its vicissitude such as periphery shrinkages, changes of its urban environment, additions and repairs of buildings and garden elements coming into the discussion. It reveals that the area of Yipu was greatly reduced during the first thirty years of the fourth phase, giving rise to its current configuration. The long-believed statement that Yipu’s current configuration reveals the characteristics of a late Ming garden, the consensus view of most of previous scholarship, is thereby challenged. The second chapter examines how Yipu has been understood, conceived, imagined, and recreated by its owners, visitors, Suzhou citizens, and architecture critics, and further periodizes this long-neglected history into another four phases. I also emphasize that this part of the history of a garden should be equally treated in importance as its physical history, because it is to a great extent the real source of garden theory. Building on the discussion in Chapter Two of Yipu’s perception during its latest phase, the third chapter explores the role Yipu and how the study of the Chinese garden played in China’s architectural modernization. Through a detailed comparison with the role of the residence-garden Katsura in Kyoto and an investigation of the role of Japanese dwellings in Japan’s architectural modernization, this dissertation identifies some of the historical reasons and difficulties that hindered the revival of a distinctively Chinese tradition of modern architecture during the second half of the 20th century, and China’s active participation in developments in world architecture. I discuss the most influential individuals, including architects, architectural historians, educators and discipline founders, and multiple key events that determined the contrasting directions of China and Japan’s architectural modernization.

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