The cascades of the Chinese, which are always introduced, where the ground admits, and here the supply of water is sufficient, are sometimes regular, like those of Marli, Frescati and Tivoli; but more frequently they are rude, like the falls of Trolhetta and the Nile. In one place a whole river is precipitated from the summit of the mountain, into the vallies beneath; where it foams and whirls Amongst the rocks, till it falls down other precipices, and buries itself in the gloom of impenetrable forests. in another place the waters burst out with violence from many parts, spouting a great number of cascades, in different directions; which, through various impediments, at last unite, and form one great expanse of water. Sometimes the view of the cascade is in a great measure intercepted by the branches which hang over it; sometimes its passage is obstructed by trees, and heaps of enormous stones, that seem to have been brought down by the fury of the torrent; and frequently rough wooden bridges are thrown from one rock to another, over the steepest parts of the cataract; narrow winding paths are carried along the edges of the precipices; and mills and huts are suspended over the waters; the seeming dangerous situation of which, adds to the horror of the scene.
As the Chinese are so very fond of water, their Gardeners endeavour to obtain it by art, wherever it is denied by Nature. For this purpose, they have many ingenious inventions to collect water; and many machines, of simple construction, which raise it to almost any level, at a trifling expense. They use the same method for overflowing vallies, that is practiced in Europe; by raising heads of earth or masonry at their extremities; where the soil is too porous to hold water, they clay the bottom, in the same manner that we do to make it tight; and in order to prevent the inconveniences arising from stagnant waters, they always contrive a considerable discharge to procure motion, even where the supply is scanty; which is done by conveying the discharged water back, through subterraneous drains, into reservoirs; whence it is against raised in to the lake or river, by means of pumps, and other machines, proper for that purpose. They always give a considerable depth to their waters, at least five or six feet, to prevent the rising of scum, and the floating of weeds upon the surface; an they are always provided with swans, and such other birds as feed on weeds, to keep them under.
In overflowing their grounds, and also in draining them, they take all possible care not to kill many of their old trees, either by over moistening their roots, or draining them too much; saying, that the loss of a fine old plant is irreparable; that it impairs the beauty o the adjacent plantations; and often likewise destroys the effect of the scenery, from many distant points of view; and in shaping their grounds, they are, for the same reason, equally cautious with regard to the old plantations; carefully observing never to bury the stems, nor to expose the roots of any trees which they mean to preserve.
In their plantations, the Chinese artists do not, as is the practice of some European Gardeners, plant indiscriminately every thing that comes in their way; nor do they ignorantly imagine that the whole perfection of plantations consist in the variety of the trees and shrubs of which they are composed; on the contrary, their practice is guided by many rules, founded on reason and long observation, from which they seldom or ever deviate.
Many trees, shrubs and flowers, sayeth Li-Tfong, a Chinese author of great antiquity, œthrive best in low moist situations; many on hills and mountains; some require a rich roil; but others will grow on clay, in sand, or even upon rocks; and in the water; to some a sunny exposition is necessary; but for others, the shade is preferable. There are plants which thrive best in exposed situations; but, in general, shelter is requisite. The skilful Gardener, to whom study and experience have taught these qualities, carefully attends to them in his operations; knowing that thereon depend the health and growth of his plants; and consequently the beauty of his plantations.
William Chambers, A Dissertation on Oriental Gardening (London, 1772)