LISTEN TO THE FRAGRANCE

We knew we’d arrived when the white wall of the classical Chinese garden came into view. The best place to be on a hot day was seated in shady pavilion, admiring the lotus flowers on the lake.  Tranquility settled in as we sat down.

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A small koi nibbled at the edge of the lily pad, and then its bubbles caught the sunlight.

We drifted slowly through the garden. A pleasant scent welcomed us. The inscription over an archway was translated, “Listen to the fragrance.”

We’d not seen gardenias like this before, and their fragrance filled the courtyard.

We’d not seen gardenias like this before, and their fragrance filled the courtyard.

What more would we see in a classical Chinese garden?

The trees and plants were carefully selected.  The “three friends of winter” – plum, bamboo, and pine – were important elements in this garden and depicted on carved gingko wood panels.

Our guide explained that Chinese maples are often mistaken for Japanese maples.

Our guide explained that Chinese maples are often mistaken for Japanese maples.

Various pavilions provided a place to rest and observe the landscape. We loved their poetic names: Knowing the Fish Pavilion and Moon Locking Pavilion.

Various pavilions provided a place to rest and observe the landscape. We loved their poetic names: Knowing the Fish Pavilion and Moon Locking Pavilion.

The building details came from China and were assembled by sixty-five artisans from Suzhou, sister city of Portland. One detail, the bat-shaped drip tiles along the roof, allowed water to slowly descend from its point, creating a “curtain” of raindrops.

The building details came from China and were assembled by sixty-five artisans from Suzhou.  One detail, the bat-shaped drip tiles along the roof, allowed water to slowly descend from its point, creating a “curtain” of raindrops.

A simple bamboo support for vines covered a pavilion wall.

A simple bamboo support for vines covered a pavilion wall.

We stepped into a pavilion that would have been a family room. A traditional Confucian altar stood before us with photos to honor deceased relatives.

The portraits of Madame Choong Boo Siew and Mister Toh Hooi Choon, the great-grandparents of a garden staff member, were surrounded by joss sticks and candles. We weren’t surprised to see the altar for remembrance and to honor departed family – often found in Chinese homes.

The portraits of Madame Choong Boo Siew and Mister Toh Hooi Choon, the great-grandparents of a garden staff member, were surrounded by joss sticks and candles.

We stayed at the garden so long we had become thirsty. We entered the Tower of Cosmic Reflections Teahouse.

Joe drank Golden Monkey tea, grown near the Tai Mu Mountains in the Fujian province of China. The tea was described as an “uplifting, full-bodied brew with honey sweetness…” Beth drank mango nectar, and we shared horsebeans (lightly roasted fava beans) and sesame chips.

Joe drank Golden Monkey tea, grown near the Tai Mu Mountains in the Fujian province of China. The tea was described as an “uplifting, full-bodied brew with honey sweetness…” Beth drank mango nectar, and we shared horsebeans (lightly roasted fava beans) and sesame chips.

This was not our first visit to Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon. We’d been to the garden on a cold winter’s day thirteen years ago. Our memory was that it was just “nice.” It took a reference to the garden in a book – borrowed from our new friend, Zoe – to spark our interest to return: after all, the “Lan Su is considered the most authentic Suzhou-style garden outside of China.” On this summer visit we took more time, learned and saw more, and we think we even were able to “listen to the fragrance.”

 

June 2015

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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4 Responses to LISTEN TO THE FRAGRANCE

  1. Sounds like a wonderful visit. I enjoyed the contrast between your visit now and your visit 13 years ago. It makes me optimistic, that you can enhance your own experience in time.

  2. plaidcamper says:

    This looks to be a beautiful place to while away a little time on a hot day. I enjoyed reading this!

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