The Portland Classical Chinese Garden is an oasis of Asian beauty within the bustling and busy downtown Portland. The garden proudly declares on its website that its mission is "to cultivate an oasis of tranquil beauty and harmony to inspire, engage, and educate our global community in the appreciation of a richly authentic Chinese culture,'' and that's exactly what it does.
The authentic living museum of Chinese plants enchants visitors with their color and variety. Pavilions dot the area, which is landscaped with trees, water, stones, and mosaic pathways. To add to the authentic beauty and serenity of the garden, music is played every Sunday and Thursday by the Portland Orchids and Bomboo Chinese Ensemble. Mosaic pathways wind through the landscape, leading visitors through the peaceful array of blossoms and plant life. As new plants blossom and new ones are added, owners boast that the Portland Classical Chinese Garden is "never the same.''
The idea for the garden began in 1988 when Portland became a sister city with Suzhou, China, one of the oldest cities in China. Suzhou has a mild climate that is similar to Portland's, making it easy to imitate Suzhou plant life in the Western Town. Imperial court officials had planted magnificent gardens in housing complexes to imitate Chinese landscape paintings. The builders of the attraction decided to base it on a garden that was built in Suzhou during the Ming Dynasty, which existed between 1368 and 1644 A.D. It takes up one city block in China town and is approximately 40,000 square feet. The garden didn't open until September 14, 2000, and it cost approximately $12.8 million to complete.
All of the plants are indigenous to China, though many of them are US grown, and some of them are over 100 years old. Some of the plants have been added to introduce wild Asian flora to the Western world for the first time. Other plants have been in traditional Chinese gardens for many centuries, while others are scientific experiments attempting to breed certain traits. Regardless of their purpose and individual history, each plant and flower blends into a magnificent display of Chinese excellence.
Almost all of the materials came directly from China. Over 500 tons of limestone that was mined from a Lake in Suzhou, Lake Tai, was shipped to Portland to be added to the garden. These rocks - called Tai Hu - are significant because of their rough texture, slenderness, top heaviness, and holes that are inside them. The Chinese believe that life force can flow freely through these holes, making them a useful addition to a garden.
Because tea is a vital part of Chinese culture, no Classical Chinese Garden would be complete without a tea house. Tea was used originally as medicine, but it has grown to become a tradition and an important symbolic aspect of everyday life. The Tao of Tea is in the Tower of Cosmic Reflections in the garden. Visitors can taste tea authentic from China and sample a small snack.