"If you have a garden and library, you have everything you need."- Marcus Tullius Cicero (died 43 BC). Cicero was a Roman philosopher, politician, and lawyer roughly during the times of Lao Tzu and Confucius. This quote connects directly back to the Astor Court because it explains how Taoist and Confucianist principles are shown throughout the garden. The Astor Court was a small section in the museum. There were many strangely shaped rocks with different sized holes in them which stood up out of the ground. The green plants wrapped around the rocks that lay firmly on the ground, creating a blend of grey and green color. The space had many winding stone paths, which forced me to walk slower, allowing me to better absorb the scene. All of the paths led to a small wooden temple with a curved blue rooftop with benches under it. Just standing in the center of the space gave me a relaxing feeling. The sun shined through the glass roof, and the room was nearly silent with few people in the area most of the time.
(Lao Tzu Pictured Above). In Taoism, the goal is the be one with the Tao. Taoism was created by Lao Tzu (an ancient Chinese philosopher). The garden is a good representation of how to achieve the goal of becoming one with the Tao. To become "one with the Tao" you have to look through the physical aspects of life and nature to understand "The Way" of the universe. This includes observing Manifest Tao (The visible River) which leads to understanding UnManifest Tao, the concept and purpose of the River in the way of the universe. Wu-Wei is action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort. This is related to peaceful movements through life and quiet meditation in nature (Pu- simplicity related to staying calm and not overthinking things), which is exactly what the garden represents. Wu-wei also connects back to the garden because of the idea that you can flow through open spaces, and there is no excessive struggle or effort needed to enter meditation. Another big idea that connects back to Taoism is the idea of "Yin and Yang". Yin and Yang is the idea that there is a balance to any force, and relates to how Taoism focuses on nature while Confucianism focuses on the manmade (architectures, buildings, society, social life). Taoism needs Confucianism just like Yin needs Yang.
Tian is the "raven and the sky" and relates to the Confucian idea of a higher authority but still makes mention of nature relating to the sky and the earth that the higher authority created relates directly to the skylight. This is very similar to the concept of "Tao" and the universe. Another Confucian philosophy that is shown in The Astor Court is the idea of Wu Chang which is the "Fire Constants". These are the virtues that define how a "junzi" (proper gentleman) should behave. For example, in terms of Li, there are rules in the Court. You have to be quiet, you should follow the paths, and be mindful of other guests/ tourists in the area. Also, self-cultivation in depicted in the Astor Court. There were some people that were sitting on the benches, observing the area, reading, and drawing that were following the pursuit of intelligence.
Dear Future 8th graders, The Astor Court is a very peaceful and calm place compared to all of the crazy noise and motion that is occurring right outside of the museum. Once you enter the court, you are breathing fresh air, and you are able to live and think in peace for any amount of time. This is what Cicero meant in his quote. He influenced many enlightenment speakers in the 18th century, therefore, he influenced many principles of western philosophy. He proved that we should listen to the wise man's words. Cicero, and The Astor Court influenced me, and I hope they will influence you too if you decide to visit this historic place.