Saturday, September 3, 2011

Garden Visit – Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon

Another garden from our visit to Oregon in July. The Lan Su in Portland was designed by Chinese artisians and is considered to be the most authentic Chinese garden outside of China. The garden combines five essential elements of Chinese garden design: Rocks, water, plants, architecture and Chinese poetry. As their website says, “The natural elements: rock mountains, lakes, and trees, along with their qi, or energy, are brought together in harmony with architecture and poetry.”

When you first enter the garden you are in the Courtyard of Tranquility. Then you pass through the Hall of Brocade Clouds and end up on the terrace pictured below. Here you can see some of the modern buildings in the background – the only reminder you’ll see that you are in the middle of a city.

Standing on the terrace you see the Moon Locking Pavilion and Flowers Bathing in Spring Rain.

The garden is designed in the style of one that would belong to a wealthy scholar. It centers around a reflecting pool with paths and buildings around it. You know you’re in a special place when some of the garden “vistas” are called things like “Flowers Bathing In Spring Rain,” “Tower of Cosmic Reflections” and “Reflections in Clear Ripples.” The garden is designed to appeal to all senses – listening to the water, smelling the flowers, seeing the beauty around you, and feeling the rocks under your feet. They entice you to walk the garden barefoot, which we fell for. Probably not the greatest idea on a hot day – my tootsies got toasted! However, I do think walking barefoot helps you feel it in a more tangible way – grounding you to the earth and uniting you with the garden.

Buildings (left to right): Moon Locking Pavilion,
Tower of Cosmic Reflections (teahouse), and Flowers Bathing in Spring Rain.

As with the Japanese Garden, the Chinese Garden has lots of symbolism. For example, the symbolism of the Three Friends in Winter (plum, bamboo, and pine) which remind scholars to persevere. As their pamphlet says, “The plum braves the cold of winter to blossom; the pine stays green through winter; and the bamboo bends in winter storms, but does not break.” I think there are times when we all could use this reminder, scholar or not.

The rockery next to the teahouse is meant to look like rugged mountains and a waterfall in the distance.

The garden has many interesting details, like the Lake Tai Rocks. Their pamphlet says, “Lake Tai Rocks are formed underwater, with the flow of water creating their unique shapes. In a Chinese garden, viewing the rocks from bottom to top is akin to venturing up a mountain peak.”

Lake Tai Rock with the bridge and the Moon Locking Pavilion in the background.

Each building has a special use and meaning, such as the Scholars Study, Knowing the Fish Pavilion (man, I love that name!), and Moon Locking Pavilion, which is perfectly situated so you can see the night moon shimmering in the shadow of the pavilion on the surface of the lake. 

Inside the Scholar's Study.

The Chinese remind us that nature offers a never-ending source of contemplation. That’s something any gardener can relate to. I certainly feel that way about my own garden. As one of the inscriptions in the garden says, “Drink in the green.” 

Some lovely orchids.

To learn more, check out their informative website:

Waterlilies, Koi fish, the Lake Tai Rock and a bridge.

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