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China to bring soft landscaping power to Washington



May 4, 2017

In the realm of international relations the idea of ‘soft power‘ has been around for decades, and China is set to express theirs in a way never before seen in the West, with construction set to begin on a 12 acre Chinese garden in Washington.

The US National Arboretum will play host to a range of Chinese designers and artisans as the garden is built over the next two and half years. Upon completion the garden will be replete with all the elements of classical Chinese landscape design, including golden bamboo groves, hand carved wooden screens and pavilions, temples and other ornate structures such as moon gates and a large central lake.

One of the many gardens of the Yangzhou region in China, the inspiration for many of the features in the new China Garden at the US National Arboretum. Image: wikicommons User: Gisling


The design takes significant inspiration from the many classical gardens and temples of Yangzhou, built by private merchants during the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1912). These fabulous creations have been drawing visitors for centuries, including countless Chinese emperors in their heyday and hoards of tourists in the modern era.  With such a pool of inspiration to draw from, the new China Garden in Washington will be cultural delight and a jewel in the crown of the National Arboretum, says director Richard Olsen:

I truly believe this garden, if it’s done right and properly endowed, will be a terrific asset.


With a budget of one hundred million dollars being footed entirely by the Chinese, along with some private donations, Mr Olsen’s sentiments look set to become a reality, with ground-breaking happening before the end of the North American summer 2017.

The garden is divided into three main sections, each with their own theme and collections of buildings, landscaping and plants.  The Mountain House of Sliced Stone will welcome visitors and give a glimpse into traditional Chinese scholastic life. The section will be made up an Entrance Hall adorned with paintings and calligraphy, a Reciting Room where merchants once unwounded and immersed themselves in the arts, the Mountain House Rockery and Pool – one of the main highlights of the entire garden with a rockery constructed of Chinese limestone and adorned with trees and shrubs set as a backdrop to an irregular-shaped pool.

The Ge Garden (Four Seasons Garden) will be an extensive network of pavilions and rockeries highlighting the four seasons. The interior courtyard of the Four Seasons Rockeries will boast intricately and meticulously maintained early-flowering shrubs representing spring and a section devoted to the colours of summer-flowering plants. The northeast section is devoted to autumn, with shrubs and trees putting on a brilliant red, orange and yellow autumn display. The winter rockery will be viewed from round windows that will let in the sound of the winter winds. The Four Seasons Garden will also be home to a large conference and banquet centre as well as a gallery for exhibitions.

A replica of the 5 Pavilion Bridge at Slender West Lake, Yangzhou, will be constructed as part of the new China Garden. Image: wiki commons User: Gisling


The Garden Floating on the Lake will be a series of bridges designed to maximise views of the whole garden. The Five Pavilion Terrace will be a close copy of the five large pavilions that cross Slender West Lake in Yangzhou, China. A formidable bridge-like structure, its five pavilions will be open to the elements and provide an ideal spot to drink in the views of the surrounding gardens and 1.7 acre lake.

To find out more visit the US National Arboretum webpage.

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