The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is the first full-sized classical Chinese garden built outside of China. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, an MD, was the Republic of China's first president in 1911 and the founder of modern-day China. His dream was to see China's long isolation from the rest of the world end, for the world to share in the wisdom of China's ancient civilizations and for China to learn how to better relate to the world outside its boundaries.

Located in Vancouver's busy Chinatown, the $5-million Garden opened in 1986 for Vancouver's Expo, a joint project of the governments of China and Canada to promote greater knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture in the Pacific Rim. Though it was built in the 1980s, the Garden was crafted as it would have been built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), using no power tools, nails or screws. Two architects from Suzhou, the "Garden City of China", and a crew of 52 Chinese artisans created the Garden from designs dating back 2,500 years. Nine hundred and fifty crates from China, weighing nearly 2000 tons, contained all the elements of the Garden except the plants. Originally designed by Taoist poets, classical gardens were meant to create an atmosphere of tranquility for contemplation and inspiration.

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China-Maple Friendship HallThe high-ceilinged main hall, called the China-Maple Friendship Hall, was built without nails from four different Chinese woods. Miniature potted treeOne of the miniature potted trees near the China-Maple Friendship Hall.
Floor at the China-Maple Friendship HallDetail of the courtyard floor at the China-Maple Friendship Hall. Water worn pebbles, in combination with bits of quarried stone, broken pottery, and roof tiles set on edge, are used extensively in walkways and paved courtyards in a wide variety of patterns. The mosaic pattern on each courtyard is different. Courtyard in front of main hallView of the Courtyard in front of the China-Maple Friendship Hall.
Limestone sculptureThe garden is noted for its prolific use of fantastically shaped stones. The extravagantly convoluted limestones are sometimes displayed singly on a base like a piece of sculpture. They are prized for their four virtues which are: the holes that allow life force to flow freely, the rough texture, their slenderness, and being top-heavy. The hardy banana is planted under the eaves in order to take advantage of the sound of rain dripping from the roof and falling on their large leaves. Taihu stoneLimestone rock formation in the Scholar's Courtyard. Stone is the hard skeletal structure of the world. It's used in a garden in two important ways: as sculpture and as building material. The most prized of all the strangely shaped standing stones are Taihu stones. Formed of limestone brought up from the bed of Lake Tai, only thirty kilometers west of Suzhou, they demonstrate, over the course of many years, the soft force of water as it wears away hard stone. They line the edges of garden ponds, are piled into false mountains, and are set up as monolithic abstract sculpture.
The Scholar's CourtyardA Scholar's Study faces a small private courtyard adjacent to the main garden area and linked by the footpath. Traditional arts including calligraphy, landscape painting, music and poetry would have been practiced in this area by the owner of the garden. In a corner of the scholar's garden, there stands the one tree that every classical garden must contain -- a winter-flowering plum representing youth in its flowers and old age in its trunk. Living picturePlants in the Garden have symbolic significance. In the Scholar's Study, three windows frame trees are named "The Three Friends of Winter". The three "living pictures" of plants are enclosed within small open-topped spaces set behind interior windows in the Scholar's Study. Every window has a different design. The pine tree shown here symbolizes fortitude and long-lasting friendship.
BatsDetail of the five bat engraving on one of the small tables in the Scholar's study. Bats symbolize happiness and longevity. The design of the five bats stands for the Five Blessings: long life, wealth, health, love of virtue, and natural death. Five is also an important number in the design of a Suzhou style garden because it denotes the five elements of a garden: architecture, plants, rocks, water, and poetry. Silk ScreenDetail of the amazing embroidery on a silk room divider in the Scholar's study.
Entrance Doorway The entrance to the garden from the attached Chinese home was through this type of door. The owners of these gardens were scholars, among the best-educated in China. Leak Window Windows filled with decorative patterns are known as "leak windows" since they leak a little of the view, and some of the light, through from the other side. Each leak window in the Garden is unique.
Jade PoolIn the west we speak of planting a garden, the Chinese think of building one. Rather than imitate nature, the Chinese gardener tries to recreate an ideal landscape in miniature with mountains, lakes, trees, and their qi, or energy, and to incorporate man's place within nature. View of the GardenThe object of the garden is to capture all the elements of the natural landscape -- mountains, rivers, lakes, trees, valleys, hills -- and, by bringing them together in a small space, to concentrate the life force, the qi, that animates them.
Turtle & Lotus flowerTurtles and lotus flowers live in the jade water at the Garden. The lotus is a traditional sign of purity and perfection. TurtlesMore turtles at the Garden.
Crooked path through the gardenThe crooked, mosaic stone path through the garden zigzags because evil spirits can only follow a straight line. It also provides ever-changing views of the small 1/3-acre garden. Classical Chinese GardenGrisel standing on a Qiáo (bridge) near the pavilion. There are four major elements in the Garden: water, rock, plants and architecture. The relationship of these four elements reflect the Taoist belief in Yin and Yang -- opposites that must be in balance to create harmony.  [
Scholar's StudySide view of the Scholar's Study. All of the buildings face south, for sunlight and because enemy Mongols came from the north. Without colorful plantings to distract attention from the essential design, the simple features of the four major elements combine to create what the Chinese call a "living treasure." Miniature potted treeClassical Chinese gardens contain plants known for their mystical and symbolic qualities. Plants in the Garden are used sparingly and each one is selected for its symbolic meaning and its ability to evoke a natural landscape.
The Pavilion The Tíng - a pavilion, or literally 'stopping' place in which to rest. The Chinese philosophy of yin and yang are also evident here. In the shade of the pavilion you are experiencing Yin, while Yang is demonstrated by the sunshine. The wetness of the water is Yin while the dryness of the land is yang. The softness of the plants is Yin, while the hardness of the rocks is Yang. This balance of yin and yang reflects the balance of nature. Hand-laid courtyard floorDetail of one of the elaborate hand-laid courtyard floors. The mosaic floors are created from tiles made from a combination of smooth pebbles and broken rice bowls.
Moon GateThe Moon Gate looks out into the duck pond and pavilion in the Chinese-style Vancouver city park adjoining the classical Chinese garden. Moon GateThe Moon Gate as seen from the classical Chinese garden. The hand-fired roof tiles, carved woodwork, lattice windows, limestone rocks and pebbles create an authentic area of peace and calm in the midst of a bustling and busy neighborhood.
Chinese-style Vancouver city parkView of the duck pond and pavilion in the adjoining Chinese-style Vancouver city park from the Classical Chinese Garden. Canadian GooseCanadian goose hanging out in the Classical Chinese Garden.
Chinese-style Vancouver city parkIn the Chinese-style Vancouver city park next door to the garden, residents enjoy lunch among bamboo stands, ginkgo tree blossoms and oriental volcanic rock. Chinese-style Vancouver city parkThe Chinese-style Vancouver city park.

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All Pictures are Copyright © 2002 Grisel Gonzalez, Jeff Prosise & Jiles McCoy