Sinkwan Cheng’s lecture uses an aesthetically appealing subject—garden design—to compare the philosophy and politics of selected Asian and European civilizations from the seventh to the late seventeenth/early eighteenth centuries.
This lecture goes beyond comparing the diversity in art forms to the (philosophical and political) reasons for such differences. Discussing Italian and French gardens alongside Chinese gardens, Sinkwan Cheng goes beyond merely identifying the symmetry and geometricity of the former in contrast to the irregular design of the latter. Instead of asking “What are the differences?”, she probes the question of “Why such differences?” Cheng will discuss Italian and French gardens as a form of political theater, which uses symmetry, central axes, and monumental structures and sculptures to project the power of the estate-owner (often the ruler) and to assert his authority over both his subjects and nature. She will contrast this parade of power to the emphasis on serenity, tranquility, and harmony of Chinese garden design, highlighting its origins not in politics, but in Daoist, Confucian, and Buddhist philosophies. Finally, the talk will venture a comparison to Japanese gardens, which became more exclusively Zen Buddhist after the twelfth century, hence their emphasis on reclusiveness and meditation, in contrast to the sociality encouraged by the pavilions, colorful flowers, and lanterns in Chinese gardens.
Sinkwan Cheng has been awarded 13 (inter)national fellowships and grants. She is visiting scholar at the institute for critical theory at Duke University. Together with Samuel Moyn, David Armitage, and Michael Freeden, she serves on the International Editorial Board of Global Intellectual History and has reviewed fellowship applications for the European Institutes for Advanced Study and the French Institutes for Advanced Study. She is currently an IFK_Senior Fellow.
Ort: IFK & IFK@Zoom