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Cultivating Happiness

Sir William Temple, Confucianism, and the English Landscape Garden

Dr Yue Zhuang’s ongoing project examines the role of Confucianism in inspiring eighteenth-century English landscape gardens. Contextualising the eminent statesman and essayist, Sir William Temple’s (1628-1699) writings across the fields of moral philosophy, literary criticism, political thought and sinology, this project reveals that at the fountainhead of the English garden was a strand of early Enlightenment thought advocating an ideology of happiness based on tempered passions cultivated by the arts. Temple’s idea of the arts shaping moral-political sensibilities through sensuous engagement with the environment demonstrated that eighteenth-century English high culture was rooted not in a purely English soil, but in the intercultural processes between China and Europe. This project was awarded a one-year research fellowship (2016–2017) by the Leverhulme Trust. One output appears as a journal article in The Seventeenth Century (2021).