Jan / Feb 2014
Like a Chinese Scroll Painting, a Garden Unfurls a New View
When we opened the first phase of the Chinese Garden six years ago, we knew it was a work in progress. Even as it welcomed hundreds of thousands of people—Chinese dignitaries, opera singers, musicians, photographers, brides and grooms, families holding reunions, international tourists, and busloads of school children—much work remained, and still remains, to be done.
From the beginning, The Huntington has endeavored to create a garden of the highest quality and with a commitment to authenticity. Thanks to an extraordinary group of donors, we received the $30 million necessary to get the garden off the ground, literally, and to put in place essential educational, programmatic, and maintenance support.
Today, we are developing Phase II of the garden. For the past few months, 23 colleagues from the city of Suzhou have been hard at work assembling the Waveless Boat Pavilion, the Clear and Transcendent Pavilion, and the rock grotto poetically known as the Lingering Clouds Peak— new features that will help round out the lake’s edge. But there is much more to be done in creating an authentic garden that provides proper space for cultural and contemplative arts, which are all inherent parts of the Chinese garden experience.
The building of the garden is a creative process in itself, blending Chinese traditions and American building codes. And it is expensive. But just as the generosity of hundreds of donors has brought us this far, we are confident that the continuing enthusiasm and support of donors will help complete this center for Chinese culture— the only one in California—and leave a legacy for future generations.
By February, the artisans will have completed their work and will have returned to Suzhou, leaving us with the resplendent results of their recent craftsmanship: the carefully placed tiles, the meticulously carved woodwork, the hand-hewn stone. And we can focus on what is still to come, including a poetry garden and courtyard, a penjing court, a hillside pavilion, and a small gallery for displaying Chinese art.
The Huntington does not launch projects until it has the support it needs, and the Chinese Garden is a splendid case in point. We have created a little at a time, letting the garden grow as funds allow. Our director of the botanical gardens, Jim Folsom, is frequently heard to say, “A garden is never finished,” and that is certainly the case. There is always work to be done.
June Li, curator of the Chinese Garden, has said that a Chinese garden is like a three-dimensional version of a Chinese scroll painting. When you walk through the garden, it’s as if you’re watching the painting unfurl, as new views emerge and delightful surprises spring forth. After February, I hope you’ll come experience the next phase of our Chinese Garden for yourself as this unique and beautiful “scroll painting” continues to unfurl.
Steve Koblik, President