Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Lan Su, beautiful Chinese garden.................

There's a sparkling gem hidden among the modern office buildings of a wonderful American city. 
There you can escape traffic, calm your senses, and reconnect with nature.

Lan Su Chinese Garden was built in Portland, Oregon by Chinese artisans and is a window into Chinese culture, history, and way of thinking. It represents a 16th century private home and garden of a wealthy family.

Completed in 2000, most of the materials used, including more than 500 tons of rock, came from China. It is the most authentic Chinese garden outside of China. Suzhou in Jiangsu province, famous for its beautiful gardens, is Portland's sister city. Sixty-five artisans from Suzhou lived in Portland for 10 months while assembling the structures crafted in China for the garden.
The six panels above are carved from ginkgo wood and illustrate actual ancient gardens in the sister city of Suzhou. On the back of the fourth panel these words are written in calligraphy~~~~~~

"Most cherished in this mundane world is a place without traffic: truly in the city there can be a mountain and forest." 
Wen Zhengming 1470-1559

Once inside the walls, modern Portland is left behind.

The bat-shaped drip tiles along the rooflines are adorned with five bat symbols, representing each of the five blessings - long life, good fortune, good health, a love of virtue, and a painless passing.

As you walk along the many handmade mosaic rock pathways, you suddenly become aware that each one is a different and beautiful design..........and they have names such as "plum blossoms on cracked ice", here below in the Scholar's Courtyard.

Doorways and windows throughout the garden form views within views, creating the illusion of infinite space within a single city block.

This pavilion above - click image to view collage - represents the boat of friendship that departed from Suzhou, made its way across the ocean and eventually docked in Portland. From inside, you're meant to feel as if you're anchored on shore and being rocked gently by small waves.

Each pavilion represents something special and is surrounded 
by koi ponds.......
........and beautifully constructed and decorated 
outside and in.

 On the corners of this roof are two dragonfish, 
or chi wen, which swallow all evil influences 
and protect the building from fire.
Plants serve many purposes in Chinese gardens. 
Besides providing beauty, color, texture and fragrance, 
they also convey meaning.

The Tower of Cosmic Reflections pavilion, is the teahouse. From this two story building, women in the family would have viewed the garden and surrounding city. Their time would have been spent managing the finances and affairs of the family. Here it promotes social art and the culture of tea........and the offerings were delicious. My gaiwan (Chinese for tea cup) above holds Dian Hong - a soft oolong tea, and Bob chose Golden Monkey.

I must thank long-time blog friend Marilyn of Delights of the Heart, and her husband Jim, for taking us here a few weeks ago. We so enjoyed meeting them in person at long last, and the visit to Lan Su, a place we'd missed when in Portland before, was so enjoyable. We definitely will be going back when visiting Portland again.


  1. I'll have to add this to my list of things to see when we visit Portland. What a lovely garden! The footpaths alone would be worth the visit.
    We will visit Suzhou in October - can't wait!

  2. What a beautiful place. It looks like you had it all to yourselves! I would love to visit there someday.

  3. We live just an hour away from Portland, but we've never visited the Chinese Garden. It's definitely going on our list. Thanks for sharing your lovely photos!

  4. This give me faith in humanity. With all the crap that we hear every day on the news it is good to know that someone had the talent and took the effort to design, fund and build such a lovely thing.

  5. Thank you for this post. Respect for other cultures, respect for the past, respect for people. The garden is very beautiful and the buildings are fantastic. What you can not see is as important as what you can. I hope everything is maintained and cherished for generations to come. In a time of anger against people who have different lifestyles Portland has stepped outside the confines of the mainstream.

    1. Yes Louise, it was an awesome place and I will definitely visit there when in Portland again. They also have amazing programs for the public such as T"ai Chi, live music, art installations, Chinese games and a garden shop - our friends have annual passes and use them often.

      How's life in Darwin? I'm sure it's much cooler than I was there - if only I could have stayed longer and met up with you, would have been really nice. I do appreciate you stopping by and leaving such great comments - seeing your name pop up always makes me smile.
      Thanks - Mary

  6. Mary I am so glad I came over. Truly it is all a work of exquisite art. So soothing, so calming, so tranquil.

    Designer Barry Dixon Feature

  7. I must say, Mary, it was truly delightful to take you to one of our favorite places in Portland. I will be waiting for your return visit. When the gardens first opened we had a friend that gave us a personal tour, as he was on the board and involved in the planning for this garden. I had forgotten some of the features and thoroughly enjoyed your review here. The large stone especially intrigued me. It was amazing to see what came from China and I couldn't even imagine shipping those large, significant stones. Thanks for your review.

  8. An amazing place. Your blog is keeping me from my usual duties here.

    It reminds me of the many Japanese gardens I have seen, quiet and tranquil.

    And those wonderful round windows remind me of the Chinese Garden we went to see on Staten Island once, and got there too late! My daughter proclaimed its beauty and I would have loved to have seen it.

  9. What a beautiful and original place
    Greetings from Poland


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