This book is a must for anyone interested in China and interested in gardening. A feng shui enthusiast will appreciate that yin/yang, qi (chi,) the five elements, and the I Ching are appropriately discussed. The author makes the vital point that "unlike gardeners in the Western world...[the Chinese prefer] plants rich not only in physical beauty, but in historical, literary, and symbolic associations."
The heart of the book is the author's discussion of over 400 plants used primarily (though not solely) for ornamental horticulture. These include peonies, camellias, lilacs, azaleas, lotuses, chrysanthemums, peaches, wisteria, gardenias, forsythias, bamboos, orchids, gingko, magnolias, and many more. Many plants that we now associate with Japan were (of course) originally brought there from China.
The information is encyclopedic and there are beautiful color photographs on every page of the book. It is quite a deluxe book. If you want to give a gift to a gardener who is interested in feng shui, this book will knock their socks off. The photograph on page 42 of the Altar of Sand and Grain in Beijing shows the colored sand spread to represent the Five Directions. This altar is not commonly known in the West, but it is absolutely huge.
The publisher is correct in describing the book as unique. No other book like it exists in English.
Timber Press, (800) 327-5680, www.timberpress.com, Portland, OR, 0-88192-470-9, 400 pages, 420 color photos, plus black-and-white illustrations, hardback, $49.95