Named the world’s best city garden by National Geographic, the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in downtown Vancouver is a real gem. Seb and I were having lunch in Chinatown when we happened to chance upon these gardens. Considering we had some time to burn that afternoon, we decided to walk in and explore – and I am so glad we did! These gardens really are special.
The classical Chinese garden was the first garden in the Ming Dynasty style created outside of China, and is located in Vancouver’s historic Chinatown. They were built in 1985 using time honoured principles and techniques by fifty two master craftsmen flown in from Suzhou, China. The materials, tools and techniques were nearly identical to those used in the 14th century – the intricate halls and walkways were all constructed without the use of any nails, screws or glue. Very impressive! I also learnt on the guided tour that most of the architectural components were shipped from China. The hand fired roof tiles, intricately carved wood work, attic windows and even the courtyard pebbles made their journey all the way from China.
Speaking of the tours, I would highly recommend you join the 45 minute guided tour of the gardens. Trust me, it’s not as boring as it sounds. I was forced by Seb to do it but I am really glad I did. It’s insightful and you learn so much – definitely made me appreciate the gardens a lot more. The guided tour is included in your entry fee and it also includes a steaming hot cup of traditional Chinese tea which you are allowed to enjoy as you explore the gardens (especially great on a cold day).
The philosophical principles of Feng Shui and Taoism are employed throughout the gardens; striving to achieve harmony and balance of the opposites. The craggy rocks juxtaposed against the delicate foliage; the smooth black pebbles set against the rough white pebbles in the courtyards; all remind us of this balance. I especially loved the The Jade Water Pavilion complete with koi fish (including the oldest koi fish ‘Madonna‘) and the gardens Penjing (Chinese Bonsai) collection. I am still wonderstruck that all this peaceful tranquility is set amidst the noise and frantic pace of Vancouver. Like the tour guide said, these gardens are ‘refreshment for the heart‘ and I couldn’t agree more.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
578 Carrall Street