In this essay I will touch upon the question of comparing the Park culture of China and Russia on such criteria as classification, organization of the Park and the purpose of use. Here we will consider tree types of parks: National Park, Historical park, and Recreation Park. At the heart of my reasoning will be my own experience and some literature devoted to this issue.
During my first year in Shanghai, I visited many different places, but I was particularly impressed by Chinese parks and gardens. Further on arrival to the new city I always wanted to visit local parks. In the course of “Chinese culture” teacher introduced to use the way to appreciate Chinese gardens. After these I was thinking about “Difference between Russian and Chinese gardens and parks”. Russia located between Europe and Asia, so it was affected by numerous different cultures and that’s why it’s interesting to see how different vision in the park architecture between China and Russia. It is worth noting that there are many different types of parks: National Parks, Amusement Parks, Historical Parks, Science parks and so on. But in this essay I want to analyze only three different types of parks such as National Park, Historical park, and Recreation Park. I have identified three main points on which I will make a comparison: ‘purpose”, “elements” and “organization”. You can easily understand the meaning of the first two criteria. But what about “organization”? Here we mean how people organize and manage a park. This side allows us to complete the picture outlined in the first two points.
National Park is an area which is set aside by national government as well as the state government which is done to preserve its natural environment. Usually they are located far away from big cities. A thing to be noted is national park is a place where there are more animals and plants then humans, so therefore this places the arena under protection of national authority. China has national 255 parks in total! That’s a huge number. Especially compere to 50 National parks in Russia. But why such a big difference in numbers? In my opinion, this was influenced by the fact that in the course of history Russia focused on the development of the European part while in China there was a frequent transfer of capitals, thus the number of development areas is much higher. The second reason is that nature plays a significant role in Chinese culture and many people have sought to emphasize its importance and bring its elements into ordinary life by creating gardens and parks. While in Russia its influence was not so great and mostly it was admired only by artist and writers. Next, I will limit myself to comparing two rather significant national parks of Russia and China.
After 4 years in China I saw only one National park. It’s Guilin Li River National Park. It’s very impressive and famous place. Here you can fully enjoy the natural beauty of China. But honestly, I didn’t visit a lot of National Parks in Russia, too. However, one of them is located near my city. Actually the whole city can be considered as a National Park, because it’s just next to the Lake Pleshcheyevo. This Park is a natural and historical Park. In the Park there are many historical sites. Including here is a Museum dedicated to the formation of the first Russian fleet by Peter the great. But the main point is a large round-shaped freshwater lake.
The first point of comparison will be ‘purpose’. The main functions of the national parks are the management of cultural landscapes, creating conditions for recreation and participation in the socio-economic development of the region. In this case, the views of China and Russia are similar. Here we should note that in Russia many national parks are located in remote regions and access to them is poorly established. Therefore, their main goal is the preservation of natural resources and ecosystems, and not the entertainment of people. National Park Plescheevo lake is located near Moscow, so its main purpose is to rest people especially those who live in Moscow and wants to be in nature. Guilin Li River national Park pursues the same goal.
Second point will be “elements”. This issue is deeply rooted in the cultural characteristics of the country and the people. We are well aware that the main natural elements that are highly revered in China are water and mountains. And it is worth noting that Guilin is a vivid example of a harmonious combination of these two elements. Having been there you can fully enjoy the greatness of nature and understand why these elements are so important in Chinese culture. In Russia, the main preference is given to water and forest. The forest occupies a huge part of the territory of Russia and it is not surprising that it had a strong influence on the formation of Russian culture. For many years it was a source of food and inspiration. To this day, Russian people love the forest. Although the mountains are some source of inspiration, their influence is not so great. Well, the reverence of water is common to all ancient civilizations. After all, it was at the rivers that cities were built and States were born. Most often, the mountains in the Russian mind associate with sport activities. For this reason, we are so popular ski resorts. But it is worth considering that Russia is a multi-ethnic country, and there are several groups of peoples who live in mountainous regions. For them, mountains are sometimes sacred. From this we can conclude that the environment affects the formation of a sense of style. On the territory of these parks are also many rare plants. A significant plant in Guilin is Osmanthus. From it also there was a name of this region.
The next point is “the organization of infrastructure and support of National parks”. In this question, China is a few steps ahead of Russia. Recently, China has been actively pursuing a policy of preserving the environment. The government provides good funding to maintain these parks in good condition. In addition, parks can cover part of their costs due to the tourist flow, while in Russia, single parks are able to maintain themselves at a decent level. Also, Park managers in China are serious oversight of the maintenance of order in the parks. It should still be noted that in recent years in Russia there are some positive trends in environmental issues, but it is not clear how much time will be spent on their implementation. On the other hand, it is necessary to pay attention to the fact that China has an inherent desire to organize an environment for a comfortable acquaintance with the natural beauty of the Park. River and land tourist routes are laid, benches and toilets are built, special events are organized. But all this is done carefully and thoughtfully. Since the Chinese strive to harmoniously fit these objects into the environment. While in Russia seeks to preserve nature in its original form. Wildlife Russian culture has always found its reflection and maybe for this reason the Russians are considered a bit wild.
One of the most famous representatives of these parks in China, is the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. This place has existed for more than three hundred years and several emperors. In addition, this place is associated with the dark times of the Opium war. I didn’t visit this place yet, but I definitely want to see it. In Russia, one of the most famous historical parks is Peterhof. It is worth noting that both of these places were built around the same time in the early 18th century. They were both intended for the summer rest of the emperors and caught the hard times of the warrior and revolutions. Therefore, they are a suitable pair for comparison and analysis.
So what’s the purpose of the Historical Parks? I think it’s easy to guess it. Their main activity is to familiarize visitors with the historical monuments of landscape art and landscape architecture. Each country proudly keeps its history and strives to ensure that the future generation remembers it. And here one of the important roles is played by the Historical Park. I think all countries agree on this issue and therefore move on to the next criterion.
The next question is quite interesting. What are the key elements in these Historic parks? Both parks are a massive structure combining many elements. In Peterhof, the key aspect is water. The local fountains are widely known all over the world. And the residence itself was built near the Gulf of Finland. I think this emphasis on water caused by a special love of Peter the Great to it. Another of the key features of the Russian Park Architecture in general is the lack of an ideal geometric plan. Often the park was a set of small regular gardens, connected together by a system of gaps, and surrounded by forest or water. And the key concept in Old Summer Palace I think is “change”. This place is a clear demonstration of the Chinese people’s attempts to adopt new ideas and merge them with traditional culture. European Palace adjacent to the traditional gazebo gave this place a special contrast. Old Summer Palace also contains a lot of water. Another interesting feature of Chinese architecture is connected with water: bridges. Such a variety of bridges are few to be seen. There were over a hundred in the Park. In my opinion, this love for bridges can be due to the desire of the Chinese people to unite throughout their history. Separately note the fountains. Even now, it is not often possible to see fountains as a separate element in Chinese parks. Most of the Chinese prefer of the fountains on the water surface. While in Russia the fountain is a popular element of urban architecture and perhaps a rare Park does without them. And all this love originates from the construction of Peterhof.
I don’t think it’s a big point to stay in detail on infrastructure, as both of these parks are an important aspect of the country’s historical heritage. That is why Russia and China are closely monitoring their condition and security. I would like to note that special exhibitions dedicated to the Imperial dynasties and other historical events have been opened in the parks to fulfill their purpose.
Separately, I would like to note the fact that both parks were damaged to varying degrees during the difficult historical events (the Opium war in China and the Second World war). Both of these parks were later restored. But there is one significant difference. At the moment, if you visit Peterhof, it is unlikely to assume that it was once badly damaged. On the other hand, a walk in the Palace will show you clearly all the cruelty of that period of time. In some ways, this story is much more obvious than just a Museum or an exhibition.
The types of park I mention earlier usually have big size and hold significant role in the cultural aspect of the country. But what about the small park which we can see everywhere in big cities? How they reflect the nation and culture? Such parks we usually call Recreation parks. The largest number of such parks is found in large cities. In Shanghai exists a hundreds of such parks.
Why we need them? Here people can experience nature in a peaceful environment. This is a necessary resource of natural recreation in an urban environment, as access to natural resources is quite difficult. So what usually Chinese people do in the parks? Lots of things. The older generation likes to play various board games (Chinese chess, cards, Mahjong, etc.). From time to time you can see people practicing the art of calligraphy. And they can write both on paper and on the tracks. Some people come to the Park to practice playing musical instruments or singing. Sometimes special events are held. In many parks you have the opportunity to rent a boat for a relaxing ride on the pond. Also often you can feed the fish swimming in this or another water area. In the evenings, a large group of people gather for dancing in large squares. This lively cultural activity made a deep impression on me and greatly brightens the stay in the park. In my opinion, this is a good opportunity for a foreigner to get acquainted with some aspects of Chinese culture. And what about Russia? So it’s quite short list. The most popular is walking, running, rolling or doing other exercises. In some ways, the Park is seen as a good replacement for the playground. Some people sit near pond and feed dugs. Other can have a small picnic. Often you can see a mother with a baby. It seems to me that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the cohesion of Russian society has somewhat shaken. This can be seen in many ways. The situation with the parks shows us that people are less satisfied with joint activities and entertainment. In my opinion, we have much to learn from China in this aspect. Although less popular parks is one good reason. In Russia, a popular way to spend the weekend is to go out of town where they have a house and a garden. Caring for the garden is perhaps one of the most popular activities among the age generation, while young people prefer the hustle and bustle of city life, although as everywhere there are exceptions.
Elements of the Chinese parks have their origin from the ancient ideas of admiration for the nature. And since the same elements are inherent in garden architecture, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish where the Park and where the garden. In the Chinese Park you are sure to find a water source, a hill that symbolizes the mountain peaks, be sure to several terraces where you can relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. And of course, traditional Chinese vegetation plays an important role. It is unlikely that you will find at least one Park in which bamboo does not grow. However, children’s entertainment zone can serve as an identification card of the park. Although they often look empty. The main style of Russian parks is built around a small pond surrounded by various trees and paths for walking. Perhaps to some extent we can say that urban parks in Russia are somewhat simple. Another popular element is a sculpture or monument dedicated to an important historical figure or event. Although in recent years an abstract genre of art gaining in popularity. Also in Russia are popular long alleys surrounded by trees. And I noticed that China has been adopting it lately. But I am not sure that Russia has served as an example.
I want to dwell on the issue of the Park’s infrastructure. I really like the way things work in China. Visiting most of the parks is controlled. In some large parks metal detectors can be installed at the entrance for the safety of visitors. Entrance to many city parks is free, but there are also paid parks. But it is worth noting that the amount is quite small and it goes to maintain the park. There we have a convenient system of signs and maps. It makes it hard to get lost. And quite often there are toilets. Sometimes you can find small shops with water and simple food. That allows you to admire nature for a long time.
In conclusion, I want to note that parks can be considered as a mirror reflecting the culture of the people. In my opinion their visit allows to expand a little about people and the country as a whole. I have already mentioned that the environment affects the formation of culture, but it is a mutual process and culture affects the environment. In some ways, it resembles the ideas of Yin-Yang about endless movement. So what can we see in the Park reflection of China? Chinese parks in their harmony and some conservatism show us that the Chinese have always sought to find harmony in life and honored their history. While well-organized infrastructure demonstrates the hard work and diligence with which the Chinese nation is building a bright future. And what about Russia? Despite some problems and rethinking of values, there is still a Russian individuality. Throughout history, Russia has been open to other cultures. And one of the key features is the flexibility with which Russian people adopted new ideas and adapted them to the realities of Russian life. From this specialty originates the chaotic and diversity of Russian park culture. It can be seen that despite the territorial proximity of Russia and China, our cultures did not have enough opportunities to influence each other. But now when we live in an open cultural exchange there are many opportunities to learn something new from each other. And now I see more and more examples of such cooperation even in park design. In addition, it is interesting to see how modern culture is intertwined with traditional and creates new amazing parks.