Chinese Garden News - Curator June Li Retires

August 01, 2014

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June Li RetiresJune Li, a respected historian of Asian art and an eloquent ambassador for Chinese culture, retired at the end of July as curator of The Huntington’s Chinese Garden. She leaves a remarkable legacy, both in the garden she helped bring into being and in the deeper understanding of China's centuries-old garden traditions that she nurtured by generously sharing her knowledge and passion with the public.


“June has had an everlasting impact on The Huntington,” said Steve Koblik, Huntington president. “Her work on the Chinese Garden—from the beautiful design motifs to the naming of the various features to the calligraphy—each element has been carefully thought through, with everything having its basis in classical Chinese history and literature. This garden is the product of a collective dream, with June Li leading it every step of the way.”


Li joined The Huntington staff in 2004 to establish the historical and cultural context for the Chinese Garden. The project was then in the early stages of its development; the first phase of the garden opened four years later, in 2008. All along the way, she worked closely with designers, architects, garden staff, and educators to fine-tune the vision for the garden.


The traditions of gardens in China are deeply entwined with its art, literature, music, and history, and Li established a series of programs to explore all those interconnections. Under her guidance, lectures, conferences, musical performances, educational classes, school tours, and children’s programs have become a regular part of the life of the Chinese Garden. Many of these programmatic activities are now organized under the auspices of a new Center for the Study of East Asian Gardens, which Li helped establish. A recent highlight was a series of concerts by the internationally renowned pipa virtuouso Wu Man. The Grammy-nominated artist accepted an invitation to become The Huntington's first musician in residence, and her five-month residency culminated in the world premiere of a new composition, commissioned by Li.


During her tenure, Li also organized three major exhibitions that explored themes of Chinese culture: “Chrysanthemums on the Eastern Hedge: Gardens and Plants in Chinese Art” (2006/07); “Treasures Through Six Generations: Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy from the Weng Collection” (2009, for which she also wrote the catalog); and “Ancient Chinese Bronze Mirrors from the Lloyd Cotsen Collection” (2011/12).


In addition, Li helped advance knowledge of Asian garden culture by authoring and editing several books, including Another World Lies Beyond: Creating Liu Fang Yuan, the Huntington’s Chinese Garden (2009) and One Hundred Years in the Huntington’s Japanese Garden: Harmony with Nature (2013).


The Huntington will continue to benefit from Li’s expertise in her retirement as she takes the post of curator emerita, working on exhibitions and other programming.

About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

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