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The Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

March 22nd, 2012 (11:26 pm)

I've visited the Classical Chinese Garden before, but (amazingly, given Vancouver's climate) this is the first time it's been raining, and the garden is designed at least as much for rain as for sunshine.

The garden was built by Chinese artisans from Suzhou (which is famous for its gardens), using materials imported from China (though the plants had to be sourced locally). It sits at the heart of an imaginary house, such as would have belonged to a scholar/civil servant of the Ming dynasty -- and if you've read the Judge Dee stories, it will probably look familiar :-)

We're standing at the far end of the garden, in the most private area. The building in the background is the 'China Maple Hall', a large reception room, close to the entrance, where the scholar and his family would have received visitors, and where the scholar might have conducted some of his business.

The building on the right is the 'Water Pavillion', which sits over the pool like a bridge, and would have been the coolest, airiest part of the house, where the family would have spent the hot summer afternoons.

Despite the poor light, I managed to get a couple of shots of the interior of the China Maple Hall:

Everything about the garden is balanced: the plants represent Yin, and the stones Yang. The stones are Chinese limestone, and have been naturally sculpted by acidic water.

Each courtyard is paved in a different pattern -- in this one, the brownish stones form the shapes of bats, which are a symbol of good luck, and the white flowers are made from sherds of porcelain:

Barriers are made from woven plants:

And natural stones are used as steps:

The roof, which covers the walkways, is designed to channel the rain over special bat-shaped tiles, so that it falls in a 'curtain of pearls' (though, sadly, my camera couldn't capture the effect):

And there are vessels to collect the water, just because it looks and sounds so beautiful...

The water in the pool is treated with clay, which makes it dark jade-green and (although you can't see it when it's raining) more reflective.

In a real house, the women's quarters would have been tucked away, beyond the (circular) moon gate:

Past the women's quarters, the path leads to the scholar's private garden and study:

This is the men's part of the house, and there does seem to be a greater emphasis on Yang here -- the decoration is simpler and more geometric.

Here is the scholar's study. Everything in the garden is designed to provide varied and unexpected views. The trees are carefully pruned so that you can see through them:

The paths wind, and rise and fall, and the walls are pierced with decorative windows (called 'leak windows'), which offer picturesque glimpses of what's beyond:

The little building (on top of the artificial mountain at the centre of the pool) is called a 'Ting'. To reach it, the family would have had to cross one of the bridges over the water. It all reminded me of a willow pattern plate:

Here's the Water Pavillion seen through the trees:

And this is the view from the far side of the Water Pavillion. The rail is designed so that you can sit sideways on the wall, with one arm trailing over the side:

This is what you might be contemplating -- an Andy Goldsworthy:

Or this -- my favourite of all the pictures -- a wise, old tree in the rain:


Posted by: Maz (thismaz)
Posted at: March 23rd, 2012 06:01 am (UTC)

There is a similar garden in Sydney and seeing these lovely pictures reminds me to dig out my photos of Sydney and look through them again.

Posted by: ningloreth (ningloreth)
Posted at: March 23rd, 2012 07:11 pm (UTC)

Thank you. When you're in the garden, it's hard to believe you're in a busy city.

I've never been to Australia...

Posted by: gillo (gillo)
Posted at: March 23rd, 2012 08:51 am (UTC)

Stunning photos - what a beautiful place!

Posted by: ningloreth (ningloreth)
Posted at: March 23rd, 2012 07:11 pm (UTC)

Thank you -- yes, it is.

Posted by: bunn (bunn)
Posted at: March 23rd, 2012 09:39 am (UTC)

How very beautiful! I love that first photo with the raindrops falling particularly.

It's beautifully ordered, but can't help thinking it must be so much work to look after it! I wonder where all the gardeners would have lived...

Posted by: ningloreth (ningloreth)
Posted at: March 23rd, 2012 07:18 pm (UTC)

Thank you. I didn't manage to photograph the 'pearls' falling, but I did capture the moment when they hit the water :-)

Whilst I was there, there was a gardener cleaning one of the courtyards. They have to exercise a lot of aesthetic judgement, deciding which patches of moss and fallen leaves remove, and which to leave behind. I took a picture of a perfect leaf, lying casually on the path, but it was out of focus.

I'll bet the gardeners lived in a servants' wing!

Posted by: Karen (kazzy_cee)
Posted at: March 23rd, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC)

How very tranquil it all looks! I love that silk embroidery in the first picture (under the cut)! The amount of time it must have taken!!!!!

Posted by: ningloreth (ningloreth)
Posted at: March 23rd, 2012 07:20 pm (UTC)

It's hard to believe you're in a busy city.

The back of the embroidery is amazing -- not quite as perfect as the front, but there is absolutely nowhere to hide anything!

Posted by: curiouswombat (curiouswombat)
Posted at: March 23rd, 2012 10:02 pm (UTC)

Judge Dee's garden - that is so cool!

Posted by: ningloreth (ningloreth)
Posted at: March 23rd, 2012 11:33 pm (UTC)

I know! And when I mentioned him to the guide, she told me about this:



Posted by: sistermine (sistermine)
Posted at: March 23rd, 2012 11:15 pm (UTC)

That is so lovely, I've never seen anything quite like it.

Some of those ideas are definitely suitable for a breater manchester garden?

My garden is small and very shaded; I have tried to grow food plants but struggle somewhat. I think next year may be time for something new, and perhaps there are some ideas here. It is truly lovely with a real sense of calm and complementarity/ Although. as you say earlier, there is a lot of work involved.

Posted by: ningloreth (ningloreth)
Posted at: March 23rd, 2012 11:39 pm (UTC)

I think a lot of it would work very well in a Manchester garden -- the patterned paving, the combination of stones (yang) and bushes (yin) with blossoms and/or berries, and you could probably improvise something to create the streams of rain (because you wouldn't lack the water)!

I think it would look fabulous.

Posted by: sistermine (sistermine)
Posted at: March 24th, 2012 08:14 am (UTC)

I think we must be the one place in the country without a lack of water.

Yes, I think it could be fabulous. So, my challenge is to change to what you've photographed (beautifully, by the way) from my current tiny shady green space.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Posted by: ningloreth (ningloreth)
Posted at: March 24th, 2012 10:44 am (UTC)

That will be a lot of work!

Posted by: kansol_encore (kansol_encore)
Posted at: March 25th, 2012 03:26 am (UTC)
Can't we talk about this?

You know what's weird? I used to work at a gallery called "Sun Yeh Sen." These are gorgeous. You have a fantastic eye and a way with angles.

Posted by: ningloreth (ningloreth)
Posted at: March 25th, 2012 04:48 pm (UTC)

Did the gallery sell paintings?

Thank you :-) My camera is a hand-me-down, and doesn't have many features, but having a lot of features tends to baffle me!

Posted by: kansol_encore (kansol_encore)
Posted at: March 27th, 2012 01:50 am (UTC)

Well that camera totally knows what's good for it!

I'm sure they did, thought nothing that cost the big bils. All the shows that I helped put up were either student shows, professor shows, and a show from the graphic designer.

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