"Dwarf Trees" from Fr. Pierre Martial Cibot's Essay


        Fr. Pierre Martial Cibot (1727 - 1780) came to China in 1759 and stayed there until his death in Peking.  He was a prolific author and had a predilection for Botany.  A considerable number of interesting observations were thus recorded by him concerning the plants of the capital city and their economic uses.  Trees mentioned included Chinese oaks, Celtis sinensis, Lagerstroemia indica, and the peaches and apricots of Peking.  He did not use scientific botanical names, but gave good popular descriptions with the names generally then added.  His treatises include one on Chinese Hot-houses, in which he furnished details with respect to the primitive but practical mode of Peking gardeners to protect Southern plants in winter, and how they proceeded to force flowers in the winter.
         In 1782, Cibot's "Essai Sur Les Jardins de Plaisance des Chinois" was published as a piece near the end of Vol. 8 of Mémoires.  The first edition of this vast repertory of the scientific labors of the Jesuits in China in the second half of the 18th century was published in seventeen volumes between 1777 and 1814.  All of Cibot's papers -- many unsigned -- were printed in the Mémoires1

 
      "Essai Sur Les Jardins de Plaisance des Chinois" ("Essay on the Pleasure Gardens of the Chinese"), Vol XIII in Mémoires concernant l'histoire, les sciences, les arts, les mœurs, les usages,&c des Chinois, par les missionaires de Pe-Kin (1782):

   Les arbres qu'on avoir forcés à croître dans les vases, & à y donner de plus belles fleurs & de plus gros fruits qu'en pleine terre, encouragerent à de nouvelles entreprises.  On en vint à les contourner d'une maniere plus bizarre que curieuse.  Les cedres & les sapins surent rapetissés dans les proportions les plus gracieuses & les intéressantes.  On parvint a les réduire à quelques pouces de hauteur, & à les perpétuer sous cette forme par les graines qu'ils portoient.

   Trees have been forced to grow in vases, & this gives them more beautiful flowers & larger fruits than if grown in open ground, encouraging new forms.  They are shaped in a way more odder than curious.  The cedars & the fir trees were reduced to the most graceful & interesting proportions.  They are reduced to a few inches in height, & are perpetuated in this form by the seeds which they bear. 2


NOTES

1      Sirén, Osvald Gardens of China (New York: The Ronald Press Company; 1949), pp. 136-138;

Bretschneider, Emil, M.D.  Early European Researches into the Flora of China, (bound with) the 'Journal of the North-China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society" (American Presbyterian Mission Press; New Series, No. XV, 1880.  Whole actually published in 1881), pp. 124-126, which gives the publication info as 16 volumes between 1776 and 1814.  Pg. 124 gives Cibot's date of death as 1784;

cf.  his biography in the Catholic Encyclopedia online, http://www.catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=2960 , gives the date as 1780.

2    "Essai Sur Les Jardins de Plaisance des Chinois" (pp. 301-326), pg. 314.   Translation by RJB starting from two electronic versions, http://babelfish.altavista.com/ and http://dictionary.reference.com/translate/, of text clean-typed from GoogleBooks digitalized image.

Gothein, Marie Luise  A History of Garden Art (reprinted by Hacker Art Books, New York, 1966.  First published in English, 1928), pg. 251 (right after Fig. 563 on-line), has the quote as "[I] saw trees, such as pines and cedars, only a few inches high, and to match the little trees there would be a miniature landscape in a vase, with everything set out in the right proportions." ;

"Verlag Traugott Bautz," http://www.bautz.de/bbkl/c/Cibot.shtml gives the citation as VIII, 321-326; "History of Gardens in East Asia, Bibliography China" http://inside.bard.edu/~louis/gardens/bibliochina.html, gives the reference location as 3:423-437.


Encyclopédie méthodique: ou par ordre de matiéres; par une société de gens de lettres, de savans et d'artistes, Vol. I Architecture, 1788, quotes the material in an entry on "CHINOIS JARDINS (Chinese Gardening)" on pg. 646.



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