Straw Hats Visit a Chinese Scholar's Garden
The Straw Hat Society had its last outing for 2006. Our final expedition was to The New York Chinese Scholar's Garden at the Staten Island Botanical Garden.
The Scholar's Garden was designed and built by the Suzhou branch of the Landscape Architecture Corporation of China. 90% of the materials used were imported from China. A team of 40 Chinese artists and artisans built the garden in six months.
We entered the garden through a bamboo forest.
The first thing we saw upon leaving the forest was the Moon Viewing Pavillion.
Here is an inside view:
The moon is viewed not by looking up, but by looking down at its reflection in the water below.
Some of those fish are quite large.
We followed a path through miniature bamboo that was lined with stones telling the story of Chinese gardens in general and this garden in particular.
The stones alternated English and Chinese.
There was also bonsai . . .
. . . and roses. Many roses are native to China.
To enter the compound, you had to go around a screen. The screen is there to keep out evil spirits. The Chinese believe that evil spirits can only travel in straight lines, so if a spirit tried to enter, the screen would deflect it back out.
From inside the compound:
This is the public part of the scholar's house and garden. There are two pavilions facing each other across a large pond.
The Knowing Fish Pavilion:
The long table is a scroll table where the scholar could unroll his scrolls and read them. I love the way windows and doors are designed to frame views:
Across the pond is the Tea House of Hearing Pines which was used like our living rooms to entertain guests.
The large sculpture is actually three rocks piled on each other. All of the white rocks were quarried from the bottom of Taihu Lake near Suzhou. None of them are carved. The Chinese believe that would disturb their Chi. Inside the pavilion are chairs, a scroll table and chests for storing scrolls.
The ceilings and lamps of all of the interiors are beautiful.
The door pulls on all of the doors in the compound are in the form of stylized bats, a symbol of good luck.
Outside of this pavilion is a mosaic created by a famed mosaic artist who uses whatever materials are available to create mosaics. In this case he used marbles for the heron's eyes, pieces of the workers' rice bowls for their white feathers, pieces of roof tiles for the black outlines and pieces of beer bottles, Heineken and Budweiser, for the tree.
You can enter the private part of the compound either by crossing this bridge . . .
. . . or through this Moon Gate:
The view from the other side:
Or along this covered walkway:
Inside the private part of the compound were bedrooms and the scholar's study:
Note the raised sills in the doorways. This was another way to keep out evil spirits since evil spirits cannot step up, they can only move in straight lines. The private part of the compound has its own, smaller pond and garden. It is supposed to evoke a mountain scene. The wavy roofline represents clouds.
This is the Cool Jade Pavilion. Another beautifully framed scene. Because of the placement of this table and the materials it is made of, if you lean over it, you hear the sound of the water going over the waterfalls as if it were emanating directly from the table rather than coming from outside.
There were also smaller, enclosed courtyards for meditating that were entered through Banana Leaf Gates.
In one courtyard, there was an actual banana tree!
After our tour of the Scholar's Garden, we strolled around the rest of the botanical gardens. Even this late in the season, they were attractive. We are already making plans to return here next summer to see the other gardens such as the White Garden, the herb garden and the butterfly garden, in full bloom. We especially want to see the Secret Garden.