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Lan Su Chinese Garden

Submitted by on March 7, 2010 – 2:00 amNo Comment
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oregon_portland_lsgarden2The Lan Su Chinese Garden, 239 Northwest Everett Street, Portland, Oregon, began (as many gardens do) with a dream. Then, when Portland and Suzhou, China, became Sister Cities in 1988, the the idea of a building a Suzhou-style garden in Portland became a goal. Its name is translated as the Garden of the Awakening Orchid.

The Garden is one city block or approximately 40,000 square feet, which includes Lake Zither, about 8,000 square feet. Its official mission is to cultivate an oasis of tranquil beauty and harmony and to inspire, engage, and educate our global community in an appreciation of a richly authentic Chinese culture.

oregon_portland_lsgardenGarden designers and artisans from Suzhou designed and built this Garden. More than 500 tons of rock was shipped from China, including the Tai Hu limestone rocks from Lake Tai, a fresh-water lake near Suzhou. They are prized for their four “virtues”: the holes (that allow the life force to flow freely), the rough texture, their slenderness, and being top-heavy. Several types of wood are used in the Garden. San-Mu (Northeast China Fir), for most of the beams and columns; Dong-Bei-Song (Northeast China Pine), for the largest columns, and Yingxing (Gingko) wood, for the pale yellow decorative carving in the Pavilions. Nanmu (similar to walnut) is used for the carvings in the doors and windows. There are 51 “leak” windows, each unique, around the Garden and inside the walls, so-called because visitors can see the view “leaking” through.

oregon_portland_lsgarden_fooThe city of Suzhou is located approximately 50 miles west of Shanghai on the eastern coast of China. It was founded in 525 BCE, and is one of China’s oldest cities. It has a mild climate, similar to Portland’s. By 1,000 CE, it had become a thriving city, not only as a trading hub but as a place for government officials to retire. These former Imperial court officials built housing compounds with beautiful gardens that mimicked the forms of nature found in traditional Chinese landscape paintings, especially of the nearby Yellow Mountains.

Within Chinese culture, the pleasure garden tradition for private family compounds of the city of Suzhou during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1364–1912 CE) is viewed as a high moment for this art form. Today, the city of Suzhou has about sixty of these gardens remaining, and eight are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Portland’s garden is based on one built in Suzhou during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE).

The Garden was built on land donated by Northwest Natural, which had used the block as a parking lot for 20 years. The groundbreaking ceremony was held in July 1999, and construction was completed in September 2000. The majority of the materials used in the construction of the Garden originated in China. Approximately 65 workmen from Suzhou created the structures and completed the work, which cost about $12.8 million.

Most of the plants in the Garden are indigenous to China; however, they were grown in the United States. Current import bans prevent plants from being brought directly from China. Prior to these recent bans, plants were brought from China to the U.S. and their offspring are what you will see today. Some plants are more than 100 years old and were transplanted from gardens and nurseries in Oregon.

Road Trips Gardeners headed to see the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland can get there from I-405 (take the Everett Street exit and turn east). The Garden is located between NW 2nd and 3rd and NW Flanders and Glisan in Old Town/Chinatown.

oregon_portland_lsgarden_dragonThe admission fee includes the Garden, Teahouse, and when offered, public tours and exhibits. (Some special events are not included with admission or may require the purchase of a tea service.) It’s $8.50 for adults, $7.50 for seniors (age 62 & over), $6.50 for students (age 6-18 and college students with I.D.); children five and under are free. The Lan Su Chinese Garden is open to visitors seven days a week year-round, closing only on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Summer hours (April 1 – October 31) are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; winter hours (November 1 – March 31) are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. The Garden usually offers free tours at noon and 1 p.m. each day. The Garden has a wheelchair accessible route that travels throughout the Garden.

There’s a complete explanation of the Garden online. A a gala dinner is to be held at the Portland Art Museum ballroom on September 16, 2010, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Garden’s opening.

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