China Seminar | 19 February 2004

The Shao Yuan Xiu Xi Tu: Literati Celebrating Spring in the Garden of a Spoonful of Water

Diane B. Obenchain Diane B. Obenchain

Mi Wanzhong (1570-1628), the renowned late Ming court calligraphy, owned and designed a legendary little garden known as the Shao Yuan (Garden of a Spoonful of Water). He later painted a hand scroll (295 cm X 29.4 cm) of this innovative garden that drew the late Ming emperors to the Haidian district where they built their imperial summer palaces right next to the Shao Yuan. The original location of the Shao Yuan is in the southwest corner of today’s Peking University campus. While the garden itself is gone, the hand-scroll has survived in pristine condition. William Hong, once Professor of the History Department of Yenching University and later of Harvard University, and his student Professor Hou Renzhi, China’s leading historical geographer, now ninety years of age, have recorded and preserved the details of this garden for posterity. The talk will give a brief history of the Shao Yuan and its connection with neighboring imperial gardens. Then we will view the Shao Yuan Xiu Xi Tu hand scroll via its exact reproduction done by the Nigensha Company of Tokyo, Japan, which has done all of the museum-quality reproductions of China’s most famous paintings at the Taiwan Palace Museum. This limited edition of the Shao Yuan Xiu Xi Tu reproduction was done by the Friends of the Shao Yuan (Dr. Diane Obenchain, Director) to honor Peking University’s Centennial celebration in 1998. Visitors to Peking University tend to know Shao Yuan only as foreign scholars quarters!

Dr. Diane B. Obenchain has taught in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Peking University on a regular basis since 1988. As a scholar of the Comparative History of Religion, her area of specialization is the Ru (Confucian) tradition along with Daoist, Buddhist, and other religious traditions in China. She is Visiting Professor of Religious Studies and Consultant to the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia. She is also Fellow at The Caspersen School of Graduate Studies at Drew University and Research Fellow at Yale Divinity School in 2003-04. Dr. Obenchain received her Ph.D. degree from Harvard University (1984), an M.A. degree from Stanford University in Philosophy of Education (1972), and a second M.A. degree from Stanford University (1974) in East Asian Studies. She was Associate Professor of Religion at Kenyon College (Ohio) and has taught at Waseda University (Tokyo), National University of Singapore, as well as several universities China. Lecturing widely in North America and East/Southeast Asia, she has published an internationally well-received, annotated translation of collected papers on the twentieth-century Chinese philosopher, Feng Youlan. She is co-author of a textbook to introduce the study of religion in China (forthcoming, Peking University Press, Spring 2004). She is Project Director, author and editor for a Small Dictionary for the Study of Religion (in Chinese and English) funded by The Henry Luce Foundation. She has joined Max L. Stackhouse, Don Browning and Peter Paris in preparing God and Globalization: Theological Ethics in a Pluralistic World, a multi-volume collection of papers published by Trinity Press International. Volume Three of this collection: Christ and the Dominions of Civilization, edited by Max L. Stackhouse with Diane B. Obenchain, was published in 2002.