Saturday, November 10, 2012
Several years ago I gave a presentation in New England on Thomas Jefferson and Chinese architecture. Some of my audiences wondered why Jefferson put Chinese railings on the top of his mansion in Monticello. The following explanation from Jefferson should help them and readers of this weblog to understand the reason why Jefferson had the Chinese design on his building top. He stated, "We must contrive a building in such a manner that the finest and most notable parts of it be the most exposed to the public view, and the less agreeable disposed in by places, and removed from sight as much as possible."
The above statement is clear enough for us to understand Jefferson's thinking of the Chinese design. At least it tells that in Jefferson's mind, the Chinese design is both "the finest" and one of the "most notable parts" of his mansion. It shouldn’t be considered it a statement of overstretch to make the conclusion that Jefferson had been influenced by Chinese culture. Furthermore, it shouldn't be considered it a coincidence that Jefferson placed the Chinese design on the top of his beloved mansion in the time when he made great efforts to build a new nation by drawing positive elements from the whole world.