Like every classical Chinese garden, the design of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden is based on the harmony of four main elements: rock, water, plants, and architecture. Together, these four elements combine to create a breathtaking experience of perfect balance, yin and yang.


Imported from Lake Tai near Suzhou, the water-worn limestone rocks placed throughout the Garden are perhaps one of the most unique features of a classical Chinese garden. Chosen for their rough beauty, the Tai Hu rocks are thought to evoke supernatural powers and entice lucky spirits into a scholar’s garden. As light changes, so do the rocks as new crevices are revealed and infinite textures and colours are evoked from the solid, yet fluid faces of these organic chameleons. The beauty of these weathered rocks culminates in the precarious false mountain at the centre of the Garden, creating the illusion of natural landscape from a man-made feat of engineering.


With the Tai Hu rocks forming the firm skeleton of the Garden, water is the Garden’s living pulse, a soft yin balancing the rocks’ hard yang. The jade green colour of the water, symbolizing tranquility, is created by clay that lines the bottom of the pond. The clouding of the waters is intentional, allowing the other elements of the Garden to be better reflected and doubly enjoyed.


Chosen for their mystical and symbolic properties, plants have a special role in the Garden in setting the mood and evoking a deliberate landscape. Wide open spaces are complemented with strong plants like pine and cypress, while confined courtyards are harmonized with delicate bamboo and miniature rhododendron. The three friends of winter, pine, bamboo and winter-flowering plum, are found in special places throughout the Garden, symbolizing the human virtues of strength and eternity, resiliency amid diversity, and triumphal rebirth, respectively. While many of the plants found in the Garden are natively Chinese, local plants are also included to reinforce the bridging of cultures that continues to be one of the Garden’s chief mandates.


The architecture of a scholar’s garden is meant to blend with natural elements, emulating the organic instead of standing apart. The Yun Wei Ting (Colourful and Cloudy Pavilion) at the peak of the majestic false mountain imitates the boughs of trees with its swooping spires, while other architectural aspects like the zigzagging double corridor allow visitors to slow their exploration of the Garden to fully appreciate the beautiful landscape. The Han Bi Xie (Jade Water Pavilion) appears to be floating on the jade coloured pond, creating a magical illusion while also keeping the pavilion cool in the summer heat with the reflective waters flowing underneath. As they would have been in the 15th Century, the larger pavilions found in the Garden – the Hua Feng Tang (China Maple Hall) and the Bai Chuan Tang (Hall of One Hundred Rivers) – are gathering places where visitors can meet to enjoy the numerous programmes and events hosted throughout the year in Vancouver’s one-of-a-kind living treasure.

The relationship of these four elements reflect the Taoist belief in Yin and Yang-opposites that must be in balance to create harmony.



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