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Monday, June 17, 2013

Museum Review: Lan Su Chinese Garden

Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland Oregon

  The Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland is a replica of a late period Ming Dynasty Chinese Garden from Suzhou.

  I have to say that when it comes to East Asian garden museums in the United States, I think of Japanese Tea Gardens first and Chinese Gardens not at all.  But, as I read on the wall of the Portland Art Museum a day earlier, what is Japanese culture but a take on an earlier, more powerful Chinese culture.  It's at least comparable to the influence that Greece had on Rome, or England on America, or Persia on Arab- more ancient, better developed, etc.  You can certainly make the case that the student has surpassed the master in each case, but the master/student relationship is clear, and such is the relationship between Chinese and Japanese aesthetics.

Lingering Garden in Suzhou

  In another post, I discussed the garden related roots of the Christian concept of "Paradise."

A paradise is a place where "existence is positive, harmonious and timeless." The word "paradise" is from the French word paradis, which itself derives from the Latin and Greek. It's notable that the term does not simply appear in the western Greek/Latin/Romance languages/English wing of the Indo European language family. Old Iranian (Avestan) contains pari-daeza- which literally means walled enclosure. From Old Iranian it was adopted by Aramaic speakers- which is the language of the old testament and therefore the source of the Hebrew/biblical word for paradise.
Humble Administrators Garden

   Soooo... as it turns out the Chinese were pretty good at the Garden designing game as well. It's a tradition that extends back to 1600 B.C.  The late Ming Dynasty gardens were centered in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province.  Two of the most famous tourist spots in China are the Humble Administrators Garden and the Lingering Garden.   So the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland is like a facsimile of these famous Chinese Gardens.

  And I was standing there and looking at the little booklet, and it was talking about how during the Ming Dynasty the Chinese Garden as a place of repose for the Mandarin class, where they could study, write and think in peace.  All of a sudden the Chinese Garden seemed pretty cool, like a little self contained paradie

  I think...looking at it through the Chinese Garden perspective, that I could roll with our new Chinese overlords.  Appreciation for Chinese Garden Aesthetics can't hurt, and according to the website for Lan Su Chinese Garden, this is the best example outside China.

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