Hidden in the middle of the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, is a beautiful secret garden I’d like to share with you. Well, ok, maybe it’s not so secret, but still, I have to share it! If you’re ever visiting Vancouver, I highly recommend heading to China Town to see the stunning Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
Tucked away behind plain white walls, you could easily walk right by not knowing what’s waiting on the other side. Located beside the Chinese Cultural Center, its a beautiful place to relax and reflect far away from the city noises.
Built between 1985 and 1986, this garden is the first of its kind to be built outside of China. Completely authentic, it was built in the same way a Chinese Garden Scholars house would have been constructed during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). Using only tools that were available during this time period, the entire garden was constructed by 53 Chinese Master craftsmen without using a single screw, nail, glue or power tool. All the materials in the garden were imported from China, right down to the last pebble and stone.
Located beside the garden is Dr.Sun Yat-Sen Park. The park is free to enter and is every bit as beautiful as the Classical garden, though there are no buildings as it is completely outdoors. Both park and garden share a pond and are equally stunning.
So what’s the difference between the garden and the park? First of all the park is free enter, where as it costs $12 to enter the garden. And while the park is a City of Vancouver Public Park, the garden is a not-for-profit charity connected with the cultural center and offers programming and events to link cultures and various communities together. Lastly, the park was built by local workers using modern equipment and local building materials.
When I visited, I wandered the stunning park while waiting for the garden to open. The park has beautiful winding paths surrounded by tall bamboo trees that lead to little bridges. There’s a pretty little gazebo situated right beside a large pond filled with coy which is a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the serenity of the park.
When the garden opened, I paid my entrance fee and was informed that a free tour of the garden would be starting within 15 min. I decided to give the tour a try and I highly recommend anyone else visiting to do the same. The garden is small and does not take very long to walk through, but the tour offered a wealth of information that greatly added to my experience. The guide explained why the garden was set up the way it was and the history behind the garden during the Ming Dynasty. The guide also pointed out the re-occurring theme of Yin and Yang that is evident throughout the garden and its importance in Chinese tradition.
The 45 min tour ended with hot cup of Chinese tea and there was a table set up where you could try writing Chinese characters to further immerse yourself into the culture.
I haven’t been to Asia in about 10 years but wandering this stunning garden made me feel like I had been transported across the globe in an instant. If I lived in Vancouver, I know I would regularly spend time relaxing beside the pond in the beautiful gazebo and enjoy the quite solitude.