Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Other Gardens: Seattle Chinese Garden

By Lynnda
(Click on pics to see larger version)
A tour of the Seattle Chinese Garden was arranged for Unit 86 guides, led by Dewey Webster on June 4, 2011. The day could not have been better. The sun was out and there was a brisk breeze, a common occurrence at this site. The dream for creating the Seattle Chinese Garden began in the 1980s with help from Seattle’s sister city of Chongqing. In November, 2010, the first of several planned structures was finished.
6/4/11-Entrance to Knowing the Spring Courtyard;
by Tony

In Chinese gardens, there are four elements to consider during the design: water, stone, plants and architecture. When determining the location for this garden, the practice of fengshui was used. The area is open to the south, allowing the sun and wind to freely enter. There are mountains to the east and west and the city of Seattle with its tall buildings provides protection on three sides. The Duwamish River and Puget Sound provide the water element, reflecting chi, or good energy, into the site.

The north-south entry path allows visitors to clearly see the Space Needle as you enter the courtyard. This courtyard, called Knowing the Spring Courtyard, incorporates the philosophy of yin (soft, feminine) and yang (hard, masculine) in the four elements; water (yin), rock (yang), plants (yin) and architecture (yang). On the right as you pass through the gate, there is a wonderful display of paired opposites; bamboo shoots (yin) growing among and around bamboo shoot rocks (yang), tall pillars of rocks with pointy tops that imitate bamboo shoots in the spring. These rocks are naturally formed pillars found in caves in Zhejiang Province.

6/4/11-Courtyard; by Tony
Knowing the Spring Courtyard is a welcoming courtyard and contains bamboo, a plum tree and pine trees. These are all harbingers of spring. They are also known as the three friends of winter. The southwest corner of the courtyard contains rocks brought from the area around Chongqing and are arranged to represent mountains. The north and east walls of the Courtyard contain beautiful windows, called “leak” windows, open so you may look through them to see what lies beyond.

6/4/11-Exit from Courtyard;
note the high threshold; by Tony

Chinese architecture has aspects that are meant to thwart evil spirits. The sweeping tips of the roof are to keep airborn evil spirits from coming to earth. Once the spirits flow onto the roof, they are directed up again by the upward curve of the roof. The earth spirits that are evil flow low to the ground. The door exiting north from the courtyard has a board along the base of the doorway, requiring people to step over this board. Since the evil spirits travel along the ground, they could not exit the courtyard into the rest of the garden.
6/4/11 - Closer view of the high threshold; by aleks

6/4/11-Water lily near Pine and Plum Pavilion; by Tony
There is one additional structure in the garden, the first structure built, the Pine and Plum Pavilion. This structure’s tiles and woodwork were created in Chongquin , shipped to Seattle, and built by Chongquin craftsmen in 1999. When future funding is secured, additional buildings will be built. There are plans for a pavilion, artist studio, a four story tower and an extensive water system.

There are relatively few authentic Chinese gardens outside of China. Chinese architecture is a dominant part of the garden and it is very expensive to build it authentically. This garden is already a lovely place to visit. When it is completed, it will truly be even more spectacular. If you have a chance to visit it, it is located on the northern edge of South Seattle Community College, 6000 Sixteenth Ave. SW, Seattle
(203) 934-5219 www.seattlechinesegarden.org

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