August 18, 2022


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This Chinese back garden is a masterpiece of conventional architecture, zen areas and China’s indigenous flora – but it is in California, Way of life News

Visualize sitting down in a splendid 15-acre Chinese yard these as could be located in the historic city of Suzhou, sipping jasmine tea in a shaded pavilion and listening to a youthful female plucking the strings of a guzheng.

Then visualize you’re also in the coronary heart of Southern California and can see on the horizon the purple-hued ridges of the San Gabriel Mountains, towering palms and the terracotta-tiled rooftops of Spanish-type properties.

Liu Fang Yuan (Garden of Flowing Fragrance), found at The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in the metropolis of San Marino, is a newly built masterpiece of Chinese flora, stone and wooden.

Among the a number of various forms of yard – rose, Japanese, cactus – the Chinese Backyard garden also showcases unusual publications in its comprehensive library, artworks and unique vegetation, and invitations poets and speakers to perform, recreating a surround-audio practical experience of 2,500-calendar year-previous Suzhou’s famed backyard garden culture.

At its cultural top, Suzhou, in jap China, was the country’s undisputed centre of the lettered arts, a spot of good refinement and superior ceremony.

Liu Fang Yuan took 3 a long time to conceptualise and create and came at a expense of US$54.6 million (S$73 million).


Much more than 20 benefactors gave US$1 million or additional every, in accordance to the donors’ wall erected just exterior the garden’s moon-formed gateways, and most of them have Chinese surnames.

So why particularly was this grand, multimillion-dollar, mega-Chinese backyard garden – just one of the largest outdoors China – so critical to develop? In some approaches, Los Angeles County could possibly seem to be like a bizarre household for it. Even the local climate is vastly various – Suzhou’s humid subtropical climes are in distinction to San Marino’s Mediterranean dryness.

The seed for this floral masterpiece may well have been planted in the early 1900s, when The Huntington’s founder, railroad magnate Henry Huntington, to start with turned enamoured of Asian-model gardens.

Possibly he had been swept up by Orientalism, the 18th- and 19th-century Western scholarly analyze of the languages, literature, religions, philosophies and artwork of Asian societies.

In 1912, he bought a Japanese-design and style dwelling, had a bridge custom-developed by a Japanese craftsman in his expansive yard, and planted unique flora to build an American interpretation of a Japanese back garden.

Currently, aficionados nonetheless revere Huntington’s Japanese backyard, with its meticulously raked Zen backyard garden and prized collection of bonsai, as a refined and elegant expression of Japanese sensibilities.

Even so, Chinese gardens in distinct “were basically unfamiliar between Americans throughout Huntington’s lifetime”, states Phillip Bloom, The Huntington’s June and Simon KC Li Curator of the Chinese Backyard garden, and director of its Centre for East Asian Garden Scientific studies. Huntington died in 1927.

In the 1980s, The Huntington started exploring the possibility of creating a distinctly Chinese back garden, partly as a way of distinguishing concerning diverse Asian models.

The acting director of its botanical gardens, James Folsom, grew to become fascinated in building a lake in a drinking water operate-off melancholy on the home.

That bought him imagining about what to plant alongside the region. He envisioned a group of deciduous trees with striking autumn colours that would develop a landscape not often represented in Southern California.

The preferred planting spot, all over the gentleman-created lake, also has a cooler microclimate suited to lots of vibrant trees indigenous to China, together with ginkgo, maple and pistache.


During the decades that followed, Folsom, now the Telleen/Jorgensen director of botanical gardens at The Huntington, and his group formulated a grasp approach.

To seize the reliable élan of a Suzhou-design and style private back garden, the group, which incorporated Jin Chen, a Chinese-American landscape architect, went in research of companies in China that had deep knowledge in planning classical Chinese gardens.

They interviewed five firms in Suzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.

The workforce settled on the Suzhou Institute of Landscape Architecture Layout for its “elegant and thoughtful” function, and throughout the Pacific, the two groups labored on translating the architect’s vision into a concrete plan.

The Suzhou organization encouraged on how the backyard garden buildings could be designed. It also sourced supplies throughout China and designed bridges, pavilions, paving bricks and roof tiles in their Suzhou workshops.

Transporting these features to the US, the company also despatched alongside teams of artisans, who labored on the venture for lots of yrs, assembling and putting in the garden’s buildings. Their meticulous and qualified labour is apparent in the courtyard’s decorative paving, for which the artisans organized every pebble into an elaborate classical pattern.

Liu Fang Yuan illustrates how quite a few trees and shrubs viewed in North American or European gardens originated in China, such as many sorts of roses, peonies, camellias, apricots and flowering peach trees.

The Huntington opened its 1st section of the yard in 2008, an expanse that integrated the lake, a teahouse and a series of pavilions bordering the lake.

The new section, 12 more acres and opened in Oct 2020, capabilities gallery and exhibition areas these types of as the Flowery Brush Library and the Studio for Lodging the Mind.


A meandering path prospects website visitors close to the lake, via beautiful courtyards, past a waterfall and series of rockeries, and up by means of an spot exactly where miniature trees are displayed.

The wander sales opportunities upwards to the Stargazing Tower, a included wooden pavilion with a bird’s-eye perspective of the full garden and Mount Wilson in the distance.

The best view, Bloom states, is throughout the winter season and early spring, “when the sky is apparent and the clouds are increasing over the mountains. I also like walking by way of the garden when it is raining, or just after it has rained. The colours are significantly much more vivid.”

The garden’s couple anachronistic things do not really crack the spell of its attractiveness, but they do lead to some cognitive dissonance. Irrespective of hiring the very best Suzhou artisans to convey Liu Fang Yuan to existence, The Huntington however experienced to accept the protection and developing codes of California.

“Almost each individual Chinese artist or scholar that visits remarks that the stone lantern in our lake is much too massive, that some of the rockeries seem too synthetic, and that the balustrades of Jade Ribbon Bridge are much too significant and strong,” Bloom says. “They are right.”


Still, clunky handrails notwithstanding, the backyard garden has an plain attract of millennia of Chinese refinement.

“There is no more pleasurable way to discover about Chinese lifestyle than by strolling in a beautifully built and expertly made classical Chinese yard, splendidly crammed with a selection of trees and bouquets native to China,” writes Chinese scholar and Liu Fang Yuan adviser Wan-go HC Weng in the foreword to An additional Entire world Lies Further than, a guide devoted to the creation of the backyard. “This is overall immersion, with sights, seems and fragrances engaging you to get to further into the artwork, literature and way of daily life of this ancient cultural custom.”

The backyard has been drawing folks younger and previous. On any presented working day, you can see Liu Fang Yuan’s picket benches lined with millennials, sketching, painting, looking at, creating on their laptops, or just hanging out and experiencing the views of the lake.


The backyard signifies the delicate power of Chinese tradition – and it could not have manifested at a superior time, with China’s image in the entire world having taken a significant beating from the pandemic.

As Bloom places it, Liu Fang Yuan stands as a leafy and floral reminder that “China is more than just a put where the coronavirus was to start with determined. It alerts readers that persons all about the entire world and all by time have taken pleasure in plants and gardening, even although their gardens have necessarily assumed culturally and historically particular sorts.

“I hope people depart the yard with the perception that individuals everywhere love gardens,” he adds. “In China, the adore of gardens has been infused with literature, art and architecture in seriously exciting techniques.”


The backyard has currently turn out to be an integral component of a lot of people’s lives: some Huntington associates stroll in the backyard garden just about every early morning some others occur just about every week to pay attention to new music many others still volunteer their time as docents to help readers recognize the backyard a lot more deeply.


Ironically, nevertheless other people arrive to the open and breathtaking expanses to leave powering the stresses prompted by a yr of dealing with the coronavirus. The backyard, Bloom claims, “has grow to be an entryway into the profound earth of Chinese tradition for hundreds of visitors each day”.

This report was 1st revealed in South China Morning Write-up.