Driftwood, Tai Rocks
During the T’ang dynasty, Tai rocks were central to Chinese gardens. Rock is “yang” hard and strong, but the prized stones for the garden were also yin, with holes, fine erosions. Irregularly eroded by water, they showed spontaneity (tzu-jan) and revealed the artist to be a mere assistant to nature. A natural aesthetic enriches and revives a deep and informed embrace of nature.
Lake Tai near Suzhou produced the best rocks (called Tai Hu – LakeTai). The water’s chemical signature eroded its limestone bed in irregular ways, so that the rocks can look like tufa. Xiaoshan Yang writes, “soon after they came into fashion in the early decades of the ninth century, Lake Tai rocks became a rather expensive commodity.”
In other areas, rocks were also placed in rivers to erode. Smaller irregular rocks were placed inside on desks or shelves as art objects in their own right. A rich natural aesthetics, but one which looked to the essence of nature rather than the ecological processes actually occurring.
We let the Pacific work on wood not stone.