Sun Yat Sen Park and Gardens. (SUSAN and JERRY WONG photo)

Sun Yat Sen Park and Gardens: Mental tonic in the big city

Portrait photo of Susan and Jerry Wong
Susan and Jerry Wong

Jerry and I always enjoy our visits to hip downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, but sometimes the oppressive gray skies looming over traffic-crowded streets cast our spirits down a bit.

The perfect tonic is for us to take a relaxed afternoon stroll through the perfect replica of a Ming Dynasty scholar’s garden in bustling Chinatown.

High-rise apartments tower in the background, but once you enter this classical Chinese garden, all is serene.

A scenic and serene waterscape. (SUSAN and JERRY WONG photo)
A scenic and serene waterscape. (SUSAN and JERRY WONG photo)

Tourists’ voices hush as willow leaves gently part for them beside the koi-filled reflecting pond. You would never know you were in a busy modern city. We have stepped back in time.

The graceful curve of a pergola roof. (SUSAN and JERRY WONG photo)
The graceful curve of a pergola roof. (SUSAN and JERRY WONG photo)

My husband, Jerry, very proud of his father’s Chinese heritage, is busy snapping pictures and soaking up the atmosphere. He spent part of his sometimes not-so-scholarly childhood in Seattle’s Chinatown and he loves Asian gardens.

I wander around mossy trees and bamboo groves, pretending I’m in 15th century China writing poetry on scrolls with a paintbrush. (OK, that would be a nice fantasy thing to do, but I’m mainly thinking about the pork dumplings we’ll eat later!)

Built in honor of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, known as the “father of modern China,” the park is free admission to all and, in spite of being next door, is considered a separate entity from the Chinese Gardens.

Entry to the Sun Yat Sen Park starts with a bust of Sun Yat Sen, known as the 'father of modern China.' (SUSAN and JERRY WONG photo)
Entry to the Sun Yat Sen Park starts with a bust of Sun Yat Sen, known as the ‘father of modern China.’ (SUSAN and JERRY WONG photo)

There is a reasonable admission to the Gardens. However, it’s quite worth it.

The Classical Chinese Gardens and scholar’s house replica were constructed in the mid-1980s, a cooperative project between China and Canada and members of the local Chinese community. It was the first such garden to be constructed outside of China and was intended to promote harmony and understanding of the culture.

Cars enter the gates to Chinatown in downtown Vancouver, in the British Columbia province of Canada. (SUSAN and JERRY WONG photo)
Cars enter the gates to Chinatown in downtown Vancouver, in the British Columbia province of Canada. (SUSAN and JERRY WONG photo)
Cars enter the gates to Chinatown in downtown Vancouver, in the British Columbia province of Canada. (SUSAN and JERRY WONG photo)
Cars enter the gates to Chinatown in downtown Vancouver, in the British Columbia province of Canada. (SUSAN and JERRY WONG photo)

Constructed using the principles of Feng Shui and Taoism, the garden contains elements such as water and craggy rocks meant to convey the balance of opposites.

We finally leave, a little sad to leave all this inner city calm behind. But it’s getting late and there are dumplings calling our names.

SUSAN HICKS WONG grew up in Asheboro and currently lives in Greensboro. Email Susan and Jerry Wong at susafina@gmail.com.

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