Cridland and Portland Classical Chinese Garden
Portland Classical Chinese Garden is calm amidst downtown Portland
a new experience each time you walk into the Portland Classical Chinese Garden.
The garden, taking up a city block in the middle of Portland's Chinatown,
transports you to Portland's sister city of Suzhou, China, with its architecture,
plants, smells and even sounds. The Garden is the only one of its size outside
"I have always found it amazing that we are surrounded
by the city, yet you don't know unless you look up," says Gloria Lee, the
garden's executive director. "But my favorite part of the garden is looking
up and seeing the contrast between the Chinese architecture and the skyscrapers
- the curved roof against the flat buildings. I think it shows the difference
between the cultures."
©Allan Mandell and the Portland Classical Chinese Garden
the garden: The Portland Classical Chinese Garden is an urban garden designed
to educate people about Chinese culture. The garden's mission is to cultivate
an oasis of tranquil beauty and harmony.
What to bring: Cameras
are allowed in the garden, but tripod photography is prohibited. Make sure you
give yourself plenty of time to explore the garden and to enjoy a cup or two of
traditional Chinese teas.
Season: November 1 thought March 31:
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; April 1 through October 31: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
there: Drive to NW Everett and Third Avenue in downtown Portland where on-street,
metered parking is available (Visa cards accepted), or take the light rail system
to the Old Town/Chinatown stop. There are also numerous parking garages in the
and Fees: Subject to change. See the garden Web
site for current information.
Taking the tours of the garden, whether you opt for the audio tour or an extended
tour by a volunteer, offer much insight into the design, plants and aspects of
the garden you might not notice on your own. Make sure you give yourself plenty
of time - and don't forget to visit the gift shop which offers imported goods.
History: The idea for the garden started 15 years ago and through
the cooperation of the city of Portland and corporate sponsors, in 2000 the garden
opened to the public. The garden was built using authentic materials and tools
by 65 artisans from Suzhou, China, including 500 tons of rock from Lake Tai. The
garden cost $12.5 million to complete and today has more than 150,000 visitors
The garden is supported by members, visitors and donors. No
tax or public money is received by the garden for its operations or programs.
nine buildings and more than 500 species of plants and a lake spreading out through
the garden, each visit brings new discoveries and sensations.
- which is called Lan Su Yuan in Chinese which means "Portland Suzhou Garden"
- is also known as the "Garden of Awakening Orchids."
are stories behind every rock, bridge, design and even walkway in the garden.
"These stones in the pathway are designed to help you relax when they
hit the pressure points of your feet," Lee says. "During the summer
people will walk through here barefoot to really relax and enjoy this environment."
During the winter months the three friends of winter - Pine, Plume and Bamboo
- are displayed in front of the garden.
"Every day there is something
new to discover and notice," Lee says. "I have been here the five years
we have been open and I still notice new things. It really is unique."
While you might think a garden surrounded by Portland's downtown might be
a loud experience, there are more than 26 building code variances that were approved
so the garden would be separated from the outside world. A wall surrounds the
garden and the plants are allowed to grow high above head. In no one spot can
you see the entire garden from within its walls.
"The entire idea
of the garden is to slow you down," Lee says. "One fifth of the space
is dedicated to the lake where we have goldfish. We also have kids release the
fish during a Chinese holiday. It's a lot of fun."
Poetry is also
spread throughout the garden with scrolls and carvings located throughout the
exhibit. Garden events constantly promote and educate people about Chinese culture.
Also located within the walls is a tea house offering light lunch and traditional
- and some new - Chinese teas. The tea house is a recreation of a 16th Century,
Sung-style Chinese teahouse and overlooks the large lake at the center of the
garden. No cell phones are allowed and it's a wonderful place to stop and talk
with friends or family.
More than 122 volunteers give daily tours - which
can take up to two and a half hours. There are also audio tours available, where
you are given a wand with numbers corresponding to different areas of the garden.
Cridland and the Portland Classical Chinese Garden
by Patrick Johnson, a freelance writer based in Canby, OR.