The English landscape garden was developing at a time when there was a strong presence of East Asian imagery in Britain, both through imported goods and in the form of chinoiserie.
Traditional Chinese landscape painting is conceived as an expression of the dynamic harmonies of the universe. Consequently painters can choose from three modes of perspective.
‘Deep distance’ (shen-yuan) shows a bird’s-eye-view over successive mountain ranges towards a distant horizon. This perspective is the one most frequently employed in Chinese painting.
With ‘high distance’ (gao-yuan), mountains are seen from below. This perspective tends to be used in particular for vertical picture formats.
‘Level distance’ (ping-yuan) constitutes a continuous recession to a relatively low horizon. This type of perspective is most akin to that of western painting.
In contrast to the fixed viewpoint of western perspective, the three Chinese modes of perspective invite the viewer to zoom through the landscape, like a bird in flight. This sense of oneness with the landscape then allows the viewer to directly experience its dynamic harmony.
These finer points of East Asian aesthetics do not seem to have been grasped in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe. The English landscape style was mainly a reaction against and development out of the formal Baroque style. But the ubiquity of Asian objects may nevertheless have given it a little nudge in the same direction.
You can read more about this in the full article, on pp. 56-8 of issue 47 of Views.