A Quiet Refuge in Vancouver’s Chinatown

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In the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown lies a peaceful garden reflecting characteristics found during the Ming Dynasty. The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is a tranquil retreat in the core of a downtown commercial district.

Welcome to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Welcome to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

For an admission price of C$12.00, this garden is a representation of a scholar’s garden, including an intimate courtyard filled with waterfalls, ponds and ducks. Leak windows, which function by “leaking in” air, light and scenery, are scattered throughout the garden and each design is different. The garden also includes a pavilion as well as a scholar’s study. Visitors enter through the China Maple Hall which is a formal reception hall designed without nails, screws or glue.

A sample of a leak window

A sample of a leak window

Walking through the garden, the courtyard includes a ting, which is the representation of a mountain. The quiet and stillness is an escape into another time and place. The garden also balances the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang, as the dark roof tiles are a vibrant contrast against the white walls. The difference between the black and the white is stark.

The scholar’s study and courtyard is in the remote part of the garden and I was surprised to learn that this room was for both men and women. The four-way test of a good scholar was to ask the following questions:

1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial for all concerned?

Scholar's Study

Scholar’s Study

In the scholar’s room are rocks on display called gongshi, which are Chinese scholar rocks. These stones are unusual as they are rare rocks that show a unique aesthetic form.

Visitors to the garden can either view the grounds on a self-guided tour or guided tours are offered throughout the day. The guides are friendly and will find visitors throughout the garden.

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Included in the garden is the Hall of One Hundred Rivers, which is a great introduction to Chinese culture. Included in the hall is information about Mah Jongg (and how to play) as well as a delicious, hot pot of Chinese tea for all visitors. My favorite part of the hall was some sample brushes and templates on display of how to paint calligraphy, which is much harder than it looks! I tried one of the samples and I’m afraid my character didn’t look anything like it was supposed to. Some of the symbols visitors can try to replicate are the symbol for tea (cha) or the symbol for bamboo (zhu). The hall is also filled with Chinese music and provides a great overview of Chinese history, including a monthly art exhibit.

Hall of One Hundred Rivers

Hall of One Hundred Rivers

My attempt at calligraphy

My attempt at calligraphy

The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is located in central Vancouver and is easily walkable within downtown or the garden can be accessed a short walk by subway from the Stadium station.

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This garden is a step into centuries long past and a stunning reminder of the beauties of hidden gardens. Visitors will be moved by this peaceful retreat in the heart of a bustling commercial Vancouver neighborhood.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
578 Carrall Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 5K2
Phone: (604)662-3207

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