Astor Court Living Color JOHN mauro

The Astor Court is a small garden and study space inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The rare space of tanquility inside shields those from the hustle and bustle of the city. Through China's rich history of religions and philosophies, we will dive into what makes the Astor Court such a unique place.

Rocks and Plants in the Garden

The main garden of Astor Court strongly embodies concepts of Daoism, such as non-action, or wu-wei. Letting the universe take its natural course and not intervening is a fundamental concept of a Daoism. Notice the extreme erosion on the numerous rocks, along with the simple plants that grow around them. The erosion is an effect of hundreds of years of water slowly grinding the pebbles away. Nothing has intervened in all this time, leaving a very natural and rough look on the rocks. Additionally, the plain, white walls show the simplicity and humbleness of a scholar, connecting to ideas of Confucianism and how one doesn't need to have extravagant things. It is said that the master of this place would take his guests out to write poetry or draw art by the ponds and rocks, in a place of stillness.

Koi Fish Pond and Rocks

Another concept that relates to the exhibit would be Yin and Yang. The stoic rock contrasts with the splashing water, showing the opposing forces. The Chinese word for landscape is Shanshi, which literally translates to mountains and water. This shows that the landscape consists of yin and yang, and how everywhere in the world is harmonious.

The Master's Study

Although appearing plain, the master's study evokes many of the principles of Confucianism and Daoism. The simple desks and furniture show a dedication to study, by having a clear area to think and learn, rather than a busy commotion where one could easily be distracted. The open windows allow one to look at nature, and like a Daoist, feel the flow of the universe. Open windows and other designs in the walls were created to create a feeling of "space beyond space", a sense of Unmanifest Dao, which could make the viewer feel smaller in comparison to the world. By taking a closer look at the architecture, you notice that it is actually complex, rather than the simple appearance it initially provides. This makes the room feel like it's basic humble, while really compacting many detailed things in it. The humble, yet complex feeling amplifies the aspect of Confucianism in the room, as Confucianists needed little to study their arts.

Diagram of the complex architecture

I believe a future 8th grader should have the chance to go to the Astor Court because it was a unique, quiet exhibit unlike anything else I've seen, in Living Color or in general life. The plainness of the garden expressed more with little features, and it had a different approach to showing the exhibit compared to straight up facts and paintings. I would never have thought that there would be a garden in the museum, much less in the city, and I was impressed on how it captured a realistic feeling of how a garden and study from an ancient chinese dynasty.

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