A GLIMPSE INTO A CHINESE GARDEN

There’s a wonderful story in Chinese lore, about a 4th century calligrapher named Wang Xizhi.               

As the story goes, Wang gave a party at the local Orchid Pavilion, a gathering that was attended by a group of celebrated poets.

Wang devised a literary game, whereby the poets were to sit by the side of a small stream while cups of wine floated on by, each cradled in a leaf.

Whenever the floating cups came to a stop, the poet closest by had to either drink the contents, or compose a poem.

You can imagine that after some time, this would have been quite a merry little party, as the poets became drunk from cup after cup of wine while writing their poems.

The poems were eventually compiled into a famous anthology, to which Wang wrote the preface.

True story!

You will often find it depicted in Chinese paintings.

This story was re-told to me last week, when I visited the Seattle Chinese Garden.

In reality, the Garden is still a work in progress, the sort of place where hard hats are required.

Yup, it’s under construction.

Still, a brief slide presentation prior to the tour, helped us visualize how this lovely garden will look when the transition is complete.

Perhaps the most striking feature is the Moon Gate, such as the one pictured above.

The idea is that you enter the world through the Chinese Moon Gate. It’s very poetic.

At first glance, it might not seem clear whether the Moon Gate is a door or a window. Turns out, the raised step (that gives the impression of a window sill) is intentional.

According to Chinese belief, evil spirits are unable to negotiate the step, thereby keeping those spirits at bay.

A proper Chinese Garden must also include the following four features:  Water, Rocks, Plants and Buildings.

The buildings, in this case, would be temples, or meeting places with names such as ‘Gathering Together Hall’ or ‘Floating Cloud Pavilion’.

And of course, an Orchid Pavilion.

I’m sure I could be just as content in the ‘Greeting With Happiness Court’.

There will also be a ‘Willow Pavilion’, and a ‘Running Cups Pavilion’ names that evoke the gracefulness of the willow tree, or the wonderful story about the floating cups.

The ‘Pine and Plum Pavilion’ refers to the so-called Friends of Winter – there are three total, the third one being bamboo.

The idea being that pine and bamboo stay green throughout the Winter months, while the flowering plum begins to blossom just as Winter transitions into Spring, a fitting symbol of growth and re-birth.

A team of artisans and construction workers from China is currently stationed here in Seattle, working hard to bring this garden to fruition.

It’s been a long time in the making.

I can’t wait to see the results when the Garden is complete!