21 June 2010

gardens: Chinese Garden in Portland

Portland, Oregon has the luxury of having two very distinct and very lovely Asian gardens: the classical Chinese garden and the Japanese garden. Actually, the two are like lessons in contrast (in a way): the Chinese garden inhabits a city block right downtown in a sort of gritty old town "Chinatown" area (mostly, I saw a lot of halfway houses, people with mental health problems and charity organizations). The Japanese garden, on the other hand, lives atop a hill overlooking the city in Washington Park on the west side.

But while the settings and parts of the styles contrast, Japanese-style gardening did evolve from Chinese gardening, so one can see threads of relatedness.

The Chinese garden (through force of location) is all about courtyards and framing small views. When you are there, you completely forget that you are surrounded by urbanity.

[The entrance courtyard at the Chinese garden, drawing visitors into its many layers.]

The Japanese garden was also definitely about framing views, but was very expansive and had more...space. (I'll post images of the Japanese garden in a subsequent post.)

The Chinese garden was "rougher," with rough stones and lots of patterned stonework, while the Japanese garden seemed to have very smooth stonework and tightly clipped plants. The Japanese garden also used tons and tons of bamboo and cedar fencing, while the Chinese garden focused on stone walls and masonry.

[A rough vertical stone juts out from a display of other stones with holes similar to those we find creating the aquifer here in the Hill Country. The Chinese garden used these vertical stones as a theme throughout.]

In the end, I got the sense that the Chinese garden was more of a "garden of home" - a garden that a dignitary or someone living in a city would actually have and entertain in. The Japanese garden, on the other hand, felt like a "garden for gardens" - a place where you get away from the city and meditate on the idea of gardens, or just drink a cup of tea.

[My favorite view within the Chinese garden. A courtyard with a "cracked ice and plum blossoms" pattern of stonework on the ground. The round gateway frames the view of another courtyard and several bonsai trees. Perfect.]

Either way, each of the gardens were some of the more amazing gardens I've ever see, and full of lessons for the home gardener.


Elizabeth Barrow said...

Thank you for your post. I love Asian gardens.

tenderleaf said...

When did you visit? Strangely I was just there this past Friday.

I also noticed that scent seemed to play a larger part than the Japanese garden.

Ann Flowers said...

Wow....It seems to be a wonderful place. Wish if I could visit this Chinese garden.