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Garden Rock (One of Three) (16th – 17th century)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Garden Rock (One of Three) (16th – 17th century)

About the Work

Title : Garden Rock (One of Three)
Year : 16th – 17th century
Medium :Ying stone: black limestone with veins of white calcite. From Yingde, Guangdong province.
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Garden Rocks

According to the digital catalogue of the Harvard Art Museum :

“To the Chinese, collectible rocks fall into two categories: garden rocks and scholars’ rocks. As the name implies, garden rocks (such as those in the alcove in the previous gallery) are set in gardens, where they are often grouped together to suggest a series of mountain peaks.”

Art historians have often compared Chinese garden rocks to the aesthetic and concept of abstract sculpture and landscape paintings. Just as these two types of art echo the forms of nature, the garden rock also serves the purpose of bringing nature into one’s home.

For selecting garden rocks, collectors regard the following features :

  • The natural shape of the rock – a rock with an undulating surface and jagged edges is considered more beautiful.
  • Colour – The colour of the rock depends on the type of stone it is made from and the geographical region it originates from.

Other Details

Garden Rock (One of Three) is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 2620. It is part of the museum’s collection of East Asian Art. This piece was gifted to the Fogg Art Museum in 1981.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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