Reimagining the Peach Blossom Spring

Siqi Deng*, Claudia Westermann, Yiping Dong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The poem Peach Blossom Spring 桃花源记 (421 CE) by Eastern-Jin dynasty poet Tao Yuan-Ming has been referred to by many garden designers in the past. It served as a basis for paintings that were subsequently translated into garden design. The poem describes a reclusive valley shielded by the mountainous geography, where a peaceful community of refugees from a ruthless regime lived in total seclusion. Several scenes extracted from Peach Blossom Spring have become part of a canon of standardised poetic imagery for traditional landscape painting and garden design. Examples are a cave near a stream, a fishing boat under a peach tree in blossom, and extraordinary fertile farmlands. They suggest an ideal, magical place detached from the business of daily life. The famous “Spring at Wuling” scene of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing, for example, can be seen as an excellent expression of the imagery of “falling flowers” and “orderly houses” in the poem. Still today, Peach Blossom Spring has a profound influence on architects with Chinese cultural backgrounds. Examples of built architecture influenced by the poem include the “Miho Museum” in Gifu prefecture (Japan, 1997) by I.M. Pei and Li Xinggang’s “Instant Peach Blossom Spring” (Nanjing, China, 2015). This paper shows that, intentionally or unintentionally, architectural designers have resisted the split from a poetic building tradition and the separation of physical construction and utopia. They engage in projects that form a virtual poetic reality carried by a physical site but not bound to it.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jul 2022
EventEAHN 2022, European Architectural Historians Network Conference: S13 – Poetry Designing Architecture: A Global Exploration of Structures Arising from Poetry - School of Architecture of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Duration: 15 Jun 202218 Jun 2022


ConferenceEAHN 2022, European Architectural Historians Network Conference
Abbreviated titleEAHN 2022
Internet address


  • Chinese utopia
  • architectural design
  • picturesque
  • poetic space
  • poetry
  • landscape painting


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