photo2The first plant life on earth dates back to around 470 million years ago.  Human beings appeared somewhere in the region of 100,000 years ago.  1500 years BCE the Chinese started making gardens according to precise philosophical principles.  A Chinese garden, although imitating natural landscapes, would consist of a series of spaces suited to different uses at different times of day.  Features such as gates, rocks, waterfalls and ponds were less literal than metaphysical and symbolic; the garden a representation of the cosmos, inner and outer wholeness.

I wonder why I’ve been surprised in Sydney to see how strong the connection is with China: after all in Australia our far east is their near north.  There is also a large Chinese community in the city, currently gearing up for the Chinese New Year celebrations, the beginning of Spring (in China, that is, here we’re moving towards the end of summer, although it’s hotter than any summer I’ve ever known – only one of the reasons why a traveller might be a little disorientated…)

photo4The Chinese influence on gardening has been a thread I’ve been able to bring with me as I’ve journeyed south.  In Singapore it was impossible to ignore the New Year celebrations – everywhere decorated with red and gold, often involving mandarins and pineapples, considered auspicious fruits because of their colour.  Shops, bars, restaurants and hotels were all lit up, like a hotter version of Christmas.

At the Gardens by the Bay, in Singapore, among the gardens representing the various ethnicities of the population (Malay, Indian, Chinese and ‘Colonial’), the Chinese Garden, while beautiful, was almost theatrical – a set piece dependent on the judicious placing of weathered stones as much as the planting.  A long canopied seating area allowed you to sit and view it, a living tableau.

Every aspect of gardening is a form of deception.

Tan Twan Eng – The Garden of Evening Mists (2012)

Here in Sydney Botanic Gardens there is an Oriental Garden, with two temple arches, lions and lanterns and many varieties of bamboo, among other native Chinese plants.  A large sign proudly announces the sponsorship of HSBC Bank – evidence of the strong financial links with Asia, which has buffered the country from our current economic challenges in the West.

The Full Moon this weekend will see the start of the Year of the Snake.  It’s a well-omened year according to the Chinese – they see the snake as a dragon in waiting.  It’s meant to be a good year for change, for the shedding of skins and new beginnings.  A Chinese Garden – like any garden anywhere perhaps – is as its best at its simplest, its most essential: the perfection achieved when you can’t take anything else away.

photoIn the 3rd century CE Shi Chong created the Garden of the Golden Valley where he would invite literary friends to walk, eat and drink, take in the scenery.  Their Poems of the Golden Valley marked the beginning of the long and venerable tradition of writing poetry in and about gardens.

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4 thoughts on “KUNG HEI FAT CHOY!

  1. dianajhale says:

    Nice variation on the normal Chinese New Year photos!

  2. Alison Flett says:

    Hi Linda,
    I came across your blog through a Facebook post. It interested me because I am currently ‘Cafe Poet’ in the Adelaide botanics and am blogging about it. I’ve really enjoyed looking through your posts and reading your fascinating insights into other botanic gardens in this part of the world. If you’re planning a trip to South Australia, the Botanic Gardens in Adelaide are well worth a visit.

    • Hello Alison –
      thanks for getting in touch – good to hear from another ‘botanical poet’. I have no plans to come to Adelaide – my budget is limited – but I look forward to following your progress online.
      I’m loving the Sydney Gardens and the layers there are so rich, it’s more than enough to keep me occupied for the next couple of months.
      Good luck with your work and let’s stay in touch.
      Warm wishes,

  3. Alison Flett says:

    Thanks Linda. I’m having the same experience in Adelaide – many layers, much material. I look forward to your future blogs too!
    All the best,

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