On October 2nd the Chinese and Japanese students went to the Chinese and Japanese gardens in Portland. Portland and Suzhou are sister cities, so the Chinese garden is based on the gardens in Suzhou. One of the most noticeable structures in a Chinese garden is the buildings. When Americans think about gardens we think about plants and not buildings, but in China the garden was not just a place to look at nature, but also a place to live and relax. Because it was such a special place the builders took into consideration many important matters.
One of the other prominent features in a Chinese garden is rocks. Rocks, though seemingly mundane have great philosophical significance. The rocks in Chinese gardens are full of holes since they have been dug out from the bedrock of the lakes near Suzhou. The solid mass of rock represents the yang (the hard), while the holes represent the yin (the soft).
Another example in Chinese gardens of the yin yang mixture is bamboo. When the wind hits bamboo the trees will bend, but bamboo has the tensile strength of steel. It has the qualities of yin and yang that are considered in the construction of a Chinese garden.
Finally, Feng Shui is a major element in the garden and also in Portland itself. Feng Shui means literally wind and water. The idea being that if you construct your structure in a harmonious way the structure will be harmonious. The garden has as its center water, and the rocks throughout the garden represent mountains.
Here’s a special treat. Prof. Zhang brought his flute to the garden and played it overlooking the water. Sorry about the video quality, but I forgot to charge my camera before the trip so I had to use my phone.