Lan Su Chinese Garden

It is December, so we wondered about visiting the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, OR, now. But my son-in-law, who had heard my daughter and me rave about it, wanted to see it.  In addition, we were assured that it was an all season garden.  Architecture is as much a part of its beauty as artfully placed plants.

Persimmons clinging to tree

The garden is modeled after an ancient scholar’s garden, and as such is an extension of the home. There are sheltered spaces and open spaces; there are private places for the scholar and his close friends to discuss ideas and open spaces for conducting more public business. There are paths for strolling and contemplation.

The Painted Boat in Misty Rain pavilion represents the journey from Suzhou to Portland; though a stationary pavilion, the visitor is meant to feel as if on a boat while in it.

Suzhou, sister city to Portland, provided inspiration, guidance, artisans, and materials for the project. The “Su” in the garden name signifies Suzhou as well as meaning arise.  The “Lan” is taken from “Portland” as well as meaning orchid. Thus the name signifies the link between the two cities as well as naming the garden, “The Garden of Awakening Orchids.”

The persimmons clinging to the tree provided color as did other seed pods and a few flowers.  Roses bloom till December here, and there were a couple brave ones left along with other unnamed flowers.

Next visit I will pick up the guide to plants of the garden and learn some of the names as well as enjoy looking at the flowers.

Brave red rose

yellow flowering tree

Yellow flower detail

The plum blossom is especially hardy and blooms in February, making it one of the three friends of winter along with bamboo and pine.  Its sturdiness is shown through the tile design, “Plum blossom on cracked ice.”

ground tile design

Throughout the garden, the ground is covered with tile designs like this, all named and each extending the theme of its area. In addition, guests are invited to remove shoes and walk over the varied textures for foot massage.  Needless to say we saved that pleasure for a future warmer visit.  Quilters would enjoy the garden for the design inspiration of the various floors.

The garden covers a city block in the midst of Chinatown.  Generally I was not aware of the city outside, but sometimes it got into my photos, as in this one.

a garden in a city

The garden feels much larger than an acre because of its design.  The guest walks in various loops as the scholar once would have, and perhaps the guest contemplates as well.  Poems are part of the overall design (English translations in pamphlets) to aid the contemplative experience.  Our contemplation consisted of listening to the tour guide.

Besides the loops to stroll there are structural elements of view within view, creating the illusion of distance.

keyhole arch



Filed under nature, travel

2 responses to “Lan Su Chinese Garden

  1. Pat

    We visited there one winter when there for a business trip for my husband. It is a beautiful space to be in and enjoy!

    • What kind of weather did you have?
      In spite of Portland’s reputation for rain, it was dry when we visited; the tour guide described some special sound effects of rain dripping from roof tiles that I’ll have to check out some day when it isn’t raining too hard.

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