Portland Classical Chinese Garden

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Migin on January 3, 2004

The Portland Classical Chinese Garden is a city owned garden at 40,000-square-feet, including a lake of 8,000-square-feet, is the largest of its kind outside of China. Courtyards, bridges, trees and other plants, a teahouse -- it's a very authentic 16th-century Suzhou-style garden. Suzhou, Jiangsu, called the "Garden City of China" is one of Portland’s Sister Cities. The Sister City concept was born in Portland.

Some structures are complete buildings with internal rooms, some are open-air pavilions for viewing plants, water features, and koi. Within the enclosing outer wall a planting-strip further separates the garden’s interior from the outside modern world, with the occasional section of internal wall and gateways defining smaller, more intimate spaces. The paths, paved with varied-color pebbles arranged to form geometric patterns, twist through the garden, first obscuring, then revealing, so that each moment brings a new surprise. You might turn a corner to discover people you hadn’t known were there. It's very easy to imagine yourself elsewhere or even elsewhen.

The wonderful carved panels and furniture scattered throughout were especially made for the garden, which opened in 2000, so, despite the fact that everything looks antique, it’s relatively recent. Some of the carvings are geometric in form, inter-lacings like knot-work. Some are representational, plants and animals -- I love the bats in the boathouse. The Chinese words for luck and bat are both pronounced fu and so bats are considered good luck.

The tearoom, housed in the garden’s only two-story building, smells absolutely wonderful, and if you don't know how to use that teacup’s lid they'll instruct you. You have a choice of 35 tea blends and the food served is appropriate to the venue, if a bit on the spendy side.

Outside the garden, at the entrance, is a small plaza. The giftshop is here, accessible without entering the garden. The plaza is also bounded by a gateway with Foo dogs. Traditionally Foo Dogs, mythological lions, are placed as a pair: The male with foot resting upon a sphere, symbolizes the heavens and the divine heavenly law of Buddha; the female rests her paw upon a cub, which symbolizes the earth, and since she has a nipple on her foot (don't ask me where that idea comes from) she is suckling the cub but provides nourishment to the planet as a whole. In essence they are guardians, not only of the specific locality in which they are placed, but also of heaven and earth, which just about covers it all.

A few blocks to the south, at NW 4th and W. Burnside, at the entrance to Chinatown, is the largest gate outside of China, with enormous Foo Dogs, which can be visited anytime.

Open: 10am-5pm (Nov. 1-Mar. 31), 9am-6pm (Apr. 1-Oct. 31)
Free tours daily at 12 & 1pm.
Admission: Adults $7, Seniors $6, Students $5.50, under 5 free.
Contact: 503-228-8131
Chinese Classical Garden Society

Lan Su Chinese Garden
NW 3rd Avenue at Everett Street
Portland, Oregon, 97209
(503) 228-8131


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