A window into an unfamiliar culture . . . an appeal to the senses: such is the Portland Classical Chinese Garden.
A delightful escape into the realm of an Eastern world lies in the midst of urban Portland. Without fail, people are drawn to this place of tranquility and wonder, despite Portland’s cold and oftentimes foreboding cloud cover. The Garden of Awakening Orchids is sheltered from the noise and cares of the world, yet surrounded by the city.
Indeed, the function of the typical Chinese garden is “to get away from the city life and enjoy nature,” explains David Funk, one of the garden’s volunteer tour guides.
The festivities of the Chinese New Year celebration enhance this experience and serve to educate the public to the customs and values of an exotic, and, at times, mysterious Eastern culture.
The cultural authenticity of the Garden seduces visitors into absorbing every minute, carefully-crafted detail'”they are enchanted, for example, to discover the fish-dragon and its purpose which is to protect and welcome guests to the Garden. This remarkable authenticity resulted from the successful intercultural partnership shared by sister cities Suzhou and Portland. Suzhou is most known for its carefully preserved ancient urban gardens, the epitome of intimacy, delicacy, and simplicity. Suzhou’s designers carefully and thoughtfully conceived and constructed Portland’s newest accolade.The serpentine path leading you from the Hall of Brocade Clouds to the Moon-Locking Pavilion is intricately pieced together and authentically Chinese'”artisans from Suzhou brought the 500 tons of stone from China that now comprises the serpentine path. All designs carved into the wood panels of the pavilion walls were skillfully handcrafted in China.
What one word best describes the Portland Classical Chinese Garden?
“Exquisite. Exactly like China,” says Martha Tully, of NE Portland. “I have been to China and have seen their gardens myself'”this is stylistically the same.”
Martha Tully, who works just blocks away, appreciates the peaceful escape offered by the Garden’s urban location. She brought her six-year-old adoptive Chinese daughter, Kim, to the Garden to “introduce her to her native culture.” Martha Tully willingly revealed the reason for her third winter visit: to experience the Garden during the different seasons, encouraging her to reflect on the ever-changing cycle of life. Imparting this appreciation to her daughter as an integral part of the Chinese culture is important for Tully, and the Garden presents this glimpse of Chinese symbolism in nature.
As you stroll through the Garden and explore the cultural displays you will admire the structures and embellished architecture that are quintessential features of a Chinese garden. Every plant and tree arrangement, every rock formation, every fragrance embodies cultural significance. Bamboo trees bend and sway, yielding to the wind yet remaining steadfast and firmly rooted in the ground. Wind “creates music” as it blows through the water-eroded holes in Taihou rock groupings, rocks that grow to their largest at the crown so as to draw your eyes upward. Water flows in abundance throughout the garden. The Garden finds balance in nature, transferring this balance to the human soul.
Wander through the pavilions'”past artfully framed picture views of plant, rock and tree arrangements'”and drink in the Garden’s divine meaning and inspiration. Read the landscape. Visitors will agree with Suzhou native Wen Zhengming (1470-1559), a renowned scholar-painter: “Most cherished in this mundane world is a place without traffic; truly in the midst of a city there can be mountain and forest.”