Dumbarton Oaks anthology of Chinese garden literature, Duncan M. Campbell and Alison Hardie (editors and translators), Dumbarton Oaks texts in garden and landscape studies/Harvard University Press, Washington, D.C., 2020
The Dumbarton Oaks Anthology of Chinese Garden Literature is a monumental work of collective scholarship that is of incredible importance to the study of premodern gardens and landscape in China. As the editors note in their introduction, although the literature on gardens is enormous in Classical Chinese, there has been very little, and largely scattered attention to it in either translation or modern scholarship more generally. As a result, Chinese garden history remains relatively illegible to all but specialists, and even then, the complexity of the original language means that only truly dedicated readers can master the vocabulary and references needed to understand the texts. The Dumbarton Oaks Anthology addresses this great lacuna by presenting a very substantial body of premodern texts in well-annotated translation, while the editors’ insightful introductions effectively contextualize the groupings for specialist and general readers alike. Together, this carefully curated selection offers a representative sample of garden writing in China, ranging across periods and geographies, as well as addressing both its breadth and, through the case study of Canglang Pavilion, depth. By combining previously published translations, including many from the greatest lights of early Chinese studies in the West, with new, unpublished texts, the editors also offer perspective on the evolving field of Chinese literary translation. The volume is an enormous boon to scholars of premodern Chinese art, history, literature, and culture, not only for their own research, but also for teaching, for which the study of gardens has heretofore been confined to a few isolated textual exemplars. The Dumbarton Oaks Anthology also makes a much broader contribution, however, one with both practical and symbolic valences: by introducing the Chinese literary tradition to a field—garden history—that has been overwhelmingly Eurocentric in its orientation and interests, this volume expands our canon through rigorous scholarship deeply rooted in local expertise. The Dumbarton Oaks Anthology is destined to become a classic source in the field, and the editors and Dumbarton Oaks itself are to be commended for their dedication to this enormous and extraordinary effort.
Dr Stephen Whiteman
Senior Lecturer in the Art and Architecture of China
The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London