Tucked perfectly into the Chinatown District of Portland, Oregon sits the Lan Su Chinese Garden. A Ming Dynasty garden, Lan Su offers the perfect antidote to the pace of downtown Portland life found deep within the Rose City. If it weren’t for a wide-angle photograph, friends would never believe this place exists surrounded by tall buildings located in the heart of the city.
Travel Back In Time (In Downtown Portland)
From the moment one walks on site at the Lan SU garden, it really is no different from traveling back in time. “How is this possible?” one could ask. A moment ago, they were amongst tall buildings, moving cars, and the hustle of city life.
Portland’s Sister City Builds A Home In The Rose City
Opening its doors to the public on September 14th, 2000, the Lan Su Garden is the result of a sister city association between Portland and the historic city of Sunzhou, which is located in China’s Jiangsu province. This part of China is well-known for their stunningly beautiful Ming Dynasty gardens.
The walled Lan Su Chinese garden encompasses an entire city block that is owned by Northwest Natural Gas.
What’s In The Name?
Portland’s Lan Su garden’s name, which could be interpreted as “Garden of Awakening Orchids” pulls from both Portland and its sister city Sunzhou by linking together the “Lan” from Portland and the “Su” from Sunzhou.
Coincidentally, “Lan” is the Chinese word for Orchid and “Su” can be translated as Arise or Awaken.
How Long Did It Take To Erect Portland’s Lan Su Garden?
Over the course of nine months, over seventy craftsmen from Sunzhou relocated to Portland to carefully assemble the garden.
The various elements of the garden itself were actually handcrafted, collected and shipped directly from China. In all, more than 500 tons of stone and rock were used. Of this, actual Lake Tai stones from one of China’s biggest freshwater lakes can also be seen throughout the garden’s landscape.
3,000 Years Of Chinese Garden Evolution
Coined as one of the most authentic Chinese gardens outside of China, Portland’s Ming Dynasty garden is a stunning testament to the evolution of Chinese gardens which has transpired over the course of more than 3,000 years.
A landscape style garden, its origins can be traced back to the Shang Dynasty between 1600 and 1046 BC, located in the valley of the Yellow River. However, traditional Chinese garden architecture initially appeared in the Tang Dynasty sometime between 618 AD and 907 AD.
What Makes Up A Chinese Garden?
The makeup of a Chinese garden does have some typical traits. The garden will generally be enclosed by walls and features at least one or more ponds. In addition, visitors will experience various rock works, flowers, trees, and various pavilions and halls all located within the garden.
Weaving seamlessly the garden together are winding paths and zig-zag galleries which take the guests from carefully composed scenes that lead from structure to structure.
One could think of it much like a walk through an art museum as one moves from painting to painting.
What Distinguishes The Ming Dynasty Garden?
The Ming Dynasty, which began in 1368, is ascribed by the Chinese as the highest development of their garden art.
Portland’s Lan Su Chinese garden is born of the Ming Dynasty garden template. These gardens were a place of deep contemplation and therefore designed as what Portland’s own garden calls, “spiritual utopias.” And just like centuries ago in the Ming Dynasty, the same remains today for many who seek to escape the stresses of everyday life on a quest to discover their very purpose by connecting with nature.
Standing amidst Portland’s Lan Su gardens to momentarily look up and see the buildings that surround this unique city block, the irony is not lost. Thousands come here each year to spend time on their journey, to find themselves, too.
The official Lan SU garden website further describes the Portland garden like this, “Portland’s Ming Dynasty garden is based on a 2,000-year-old Chinese tradition that melds art, architecture, design and nature in perfect harmony.”
What Do Guests Experience At Portland’s Chinese Garden?
When guests visit Portland’s Lan Su garden, they will experience not only an escape from the stresses of everyday life, but also a glimpse of Chinese culture.
Here Are Two Of Many Features At Portland’s Garden:
The Lan Su garden features hundreds of different plant species which are all native to China. The garden also showcases over fifty specimen trees as well as other rare and unusual shrubs which guarantee to transport you into another world.
The Portland Lan Su garden offers a two-story 50 seat teahouse that is located in the Tower of Cosmic Reflections. In addition to the experience of authentic Chinese tea culture, the teahouse also serves light meals and snacks.
Plan Your Next Escape In The Heart Of Portland
The Lan Su garden, which is located at 239 Northwest Everett Street, in downtown Portland, Oregon, is the perfect escape for anyone looking for imagination, inspiration, and perspective. But beyond that, and for the thousands upon thousands of annual visitors to the gardens each year, Portland’s Chinese Garden is much more retreat than it is an escape.
Just be sure to take a few wide-angle pictures with your camera. Otherwise, your friends will never believe you.
Be sure to check the official website to learn of upcoming events as well as their seasonal hours.