Astor Court is a medium sized courtyard in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is split up into two sections; a space meant to mimic nature and the outdoors, with plants, trees, rocks, and water, and a clean and orderly study. It is styled after 15th century China, and this is visible, among other things, because of the gardens strong connection to Taoism, and the studies strong connection to Confucianism. This space is appealing to many New Yorkers because it is incredibly calming and a very peaceful space. There is a lot to look at in both spaces, and they both contrast with the rest of the museum as well as the rest of the city so sharply that it is a really nice place to relax.
One of the reasons the courtyard has such strong ties to 15th century China is because of the very Daoist Garden. Rocks, plants, and small trees are all over the ground of the garden, especially the near the walls. This takes the emphasis off of the people around you, and draws attention to nature. This is reminiscent of Daoist art, where the people are often tiny and off-center, and the surroundings and the landscape is meant to get your attention instead. The rocks and plants also create a randomness and disorder, which is a good way to show the idea of Wu Wei. Wu Wei is the idea that you shouldn't try to go against the Dao, but rather follow the Dao and do what is natural for you to do in that moment, and that if you don't start anything you leave nothing undone.
There are also many smaller details that relate the garden to Taoism. There is an uncarved rock on a pedestal like art, and the wood from the pillars is a special kind of wood that is very strong in its natural form, without human interference. These both show the concept of P'u, which is the uncarved block. The idea behind the uncarved block is that it is strongest in its natural form, and when humans try to change it it only becomes worse. There is also water flowing on a rock that represents Yin Yang. This is because Yin and Yang are two ideas that contradict each other, but are incomplete without each other. This is shown in the water because the water and the rocks are two opposites, one is always moving and the other is always still.
The study is not Taoist, but relates to 15th century China because it is Confucian. It is neat, orderly and symmetrical, with everything being in plain sight, and nothing looking out of place. This is because one of the most important Confucian ideas is Li, or ritual/etiquette. In Confucianism there is a protocol for every situation, and so the layout of the study reflects that idea.
I think future 8th Graders should go on this trip because it is a space that is very different than the rest of New York, and is very calm and peaceful. There also aren't many places that are as clearly representative of Ancient China's legacy. Everything in Astor Court was made based off of the ideas from China's legacy, and there are connections to China everywhere. Many things are also explained by helpful signs throughout the garden, which give you some context which adds meaning to the rest of the experience.