Friday, August 21, 2009

Classical Chinese Garden - Portland

Portland Classical Chinese Garden - Part II
The refined elegance of Portland Classical Chinese Garden has inspired countless articles since its gates first opened. I jumped on the bandwagon early on, mentioning the project's groundbreaking as my manuscript neared completion for West Coast Gardenwalks (Michael Kesend Publishing, 2000). Going forward, I wrote in some depth on the garden’s rarified beauty for Gardenwalks in the Pacific Northwest (Globe Pequot Press, 2006).
During a lengthy recent visit, I had time and opportunity to bask in the garden's ambiance.
Admittedly, a virtual tour is just that, but perhaps my words and images will inspire you to visit the Classical Chinese garden ... enchantingly named, Garden of Awakening Orchids .. Lan Su Yuan.

An authentically built classical scholar’s garden of the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese Garden finds inspiration in the classical urban gardens of Suzhou: China’s garden city and Portland’s sister-city. Expert artisans from Suzhou traveled to Portland to assemble the garden’s prefabricated structures, and to create decorative stonework elements boasting an incredible attention to detail.

Stout stone lions stand sentry at the garden’s main portal,
where visitors pass through an inscribed gate framing the entryway. A complementary grouping, Three Friends of Winter is comprised of a pine, graceful bamboo and plum tree that traditionally appear in Chinese art.
Lake Tai rocks hold prominent places within the garden. As you proceed to discover its full beauty, the symbolic nature of such distinctive rocks is revealed as integral to the philosophical character - the yin and yang - of this idealized setting.
A glassy lake harmoniously links each aspect of the landscape. Wandering through the garden, you’ll come upon terraces and foot bridges poised to look out over a pond adorned with water lilies. Elsewhere, a rockery and waterfall create a commanding tableau.

A rare and choice Quercus species...
Spacious pavilions with tile roofs, covered bridges, craggy limestone rocks representing cloud configurations, and mesmerizing mosaics are among the Chinese Garden’s compelling aesthetic features. Around every turn, a unique view emerges; while gazing out from the Knowing the Fish Pavilion or from the shelter of the Moon Locking Pavilion ... you’ll perceive vistas designed to appear distant: the Clouds Bridge and Tower of Cosmic Reflections.

Intimate vignettes catch the eye. Plum blossom on cracked ice - a mosaic stone pattern emerges underfoot:
An illustrious carved panel draws you in at eye level.
Plants sourced in the Pacific Northwest encompass species indigenous to China, all sited to artfully accompany the architecture. Amid the garden’s emblematic mountains and stirring water features are pomegranate, peach, osmanthus, Chinese paper bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) and magnolias, arising as alluring accents surrounding the Hall of Brocade Clouds.
In the courtyard outside the Scholar’s Study - the Celestial Hall of Permeating Fragrance - the perfume of gardenias and wintersweet lingers on the air.

Roof tiles in the Scholar’s Courtyard incorporate specially designed drip tiles that produce a calculated effect, and as a consequence, beads of water create a melodious sound when raindrops fall.

As mentioned in my introductory post, the two-story Tea House, the Tower of Cosmic Reflections will provide a refreshing respite: A fine place to observe enchanting views.
Gardenia 'Kleim's Hardy'

Experience a sense of retreat from the sounds of the surrounding neighborhood in the reflective atmosphere of Portland's Classical Chinese Garden,
holding the promise of enthralling sensory and seasonal pleasures all year-round.
Part III .... to follow


  1. Wow, this is really really pretty. I hate how many "Asian style" gardens involve a little pagoda and a japanese maple. This garden seems very well thought out and ..."authentic"

  2. Thank you for taking us on this journey. It is so interesting to see the garden in summer, since when I visited it was just beginning to wake up from it's winter nap, although still very beautiful at that time. I can't wait to go back! Lovely photos, and I saw things that I missed before. Can't wait for part 3!

  3. What an interesting place to see. Everywhere you look there is something to catch your eye.

  4. Beautiful! Maybe if I get the Williamsburg city council to make Suzhou our sister city we can get one of these gardens.

  5. I am actually dying to go there!!! Thanks for sharing your journey.

  6. Form and texture make this garden stunning.

    I love teh leaf cutout in the wall - very charming.

  7. Wendy,
    Welcome! The aesthetics of a classical Chinese garden are multi-layered and totally engaging. I'm sure you'd find a visit to be satisfying in every way.

    The structure is so sophisticated and the greenery so lush, that the garden is blissful in every season. That said, the heady fragrance of the gardenias made me swoon. I'm not sure about when or how long they bloom, but it added to the experience. Thanks for complimenting the pics: it's difficult to take a poor shot!

    Kind of you to comment on the photos, and glad that you stopped by!

    It's taken thousands of years! But aren't we fortunate to at last have Classical Chinese Gardens in North America - Dr. Sun Yat-Sen in Vancouver is another.

    H.I.G., I feel the same way about pushing for San Francisco to wise up and create a Chinese garden ;-)

    flowrgirl, You won't be disappointed in this magical setting. Thank you for the company on my sojourn!

  8. GardenMs.S,
    (Your comment slipped in while I was posting :)
    Yes, I love details such as the leaf cutout which not only provides an opening to frame a view, but is also a lovely element that can stand along.
    Thanks for coming by and commenting.