September 11, 2011
We are up early to visit the UR Garden. The designers took great pains and cost to turn this beautiful, former government employee’s home, into a centerpiece of Chinese garden architecture. Walled gardens are meant to shut out the troubles of everyday life. To do that, a garden must have balance, and elements that instill peace and serenity.
A perfect garden will have a hill, water, rock, plants, a building and trees, the major components.
The plants and shapes and positions of everything in the garden have special meanings. If you plant a pine tree for strength, you must have two, a female and a male pine tree. If one dies, you must remove the partner tree and replant two new ones to replace them with their relativity in size maintained for “balance”.
The rock and hill must be a size to complement its surroundings, not overshadow it. Gates, bridge rails and doors are smooth and pleasurable to touch. Walkways flow. Windows and doorways have form and interest to please the eyes.
Bamboo represents strength and resilience and music as the wind passes over its hollowed stems in a gate or a structure. Each plant is chosen for its symbolic meaning. A flowering plum represents rebirth and renewal when it blooms on bare wood in the spring. A lotus is purity. Peonies symbolize wealth.
A protective dragon.
After this painstaking cultivated garden was matured, a contingent of Chinese garden experts came from Vancouver, Canada to see it. They commented on how “beautiful”the garden was. Not perfect? When asked why it didn’t meet expectations, it was because above the wall, in a small corner, could be seen, a modern condominium in the distance. The cure will be heighten the wall or move the condominium if necessary. They take the poetic aspects of their peaceful garden very seriously.
In the afternoon we cross the river to the Yangtze market to pick up last-minute souvenirs. Several of us take tea at a lovely tea house. We are let loose in the market place within walking distance of our hotel. Three of us go to the Hip Hop Market and gawk at merchandise for teens, babies, grandchildren, ourselves. Very expensive stuff. Shoes like we’ve never seen in our lives before. Stiletto heels six inches high. See through blouses and bathing suits. This is China? It was a gas. We dashed from store to store like unruly kids to take it all in.