Posts Tagged With: Ur Garden

PEACE, CULTURE AND HIP HOP

It is our last morning in China. We are up early. Business people all over town line up in their suits and ties at street steamers to buy buns and dumplings for breakfast.  (Picture by Nicolas Delerue) China is vast but it’s cities are huge and crowded. The Chinese seek peace in their gardens.

In the center of this snarling city is the UR Garden. The designers took great pains and cost to turn this former government employees home into a centerpiece of Chinese garden architecture. A walled garden shuts out the troubles of life and brings peace and quiet to the soul. It allows you to contemplate a higher plane and renew the spirit.

The Chinese people strive for perfection in everything they do. A perfect garden must have a hill, water, rock, plants, bamboo, a building and trees. The plants placement and position in the garden, and shapes of everything  have special meanings. A rock must not overshadow water. All gates, walkways, windows and doors must suggest nurture, peace and serenity to soothe the soul. A tea house provides refreshment and joy.

A cut out in the wall has pleasing lines and picturesquely  frames and enhances a particular view of the garden.

A beautifully designed window does the same.

Each rock, each plant is chosen for its sense of balance and rest. Lotus for purity. Bamboo for strength and resilience.  Flowering plum represents rebirth. If you plant a pine tree, you must have both a male and female tree. If one dies, the partner tree is removed.

Proper dragons guard the roof and walls.

The roof is enhanced with bamboo at the top to make music as the wind passes over the hollow tubes.  The poetic aspects of a garden are taken very seriously.

When a contingent of Chinese Garden Architects from Vancouver came to see the garden, they politely said it was beautiful. Not perfect?  They judged it imperfect because modern condominium visible in a little corner of the garden.  Tsk, tsk!

We leave the garden to visit Shanghai Cultural Museum.  On the freeway we see a huge cement column  about 12 feet in diameter  supporting an over crossing. It was beautifully decorated with writhing dragons. I asked why the need for such a heavy support column? Our city guide explained that it allows the dragons to get out. When they were building, the workmen had trouble in that spot. They insisted there was a dragon there and it would be bad luck to cover it up. The government architects came up with a solution. It is partially hollow and has an exit window.  Now knowing what we do of Chinese culture and centuries of superstition embedded in their character, we understand.

The museum too, is a quiet place that gives a sense of peace…

and beauty.

Late in the afternoon we have free time and several of us take tea at a lovely tea house and then off to the Hip Hop Market to pick up any last minute souvenirs. This is not a souvenir market.  We gawk at ultra modern merchandise. Shoes like I’ve never seen in my life with price tags to match.  Baby items and clothing  for the children or grandchildren of the very wealthy. Teens swarm the place with their phones and wrist band radios. They buy see-through blouses, painted skirts and bathing suits that would fit in a cigarette box. We are running from store to store like unruly kids were we see every kind of goods,  rich leathers, golden threaded bags and scarves; canes, sunglasses, jewelry to dazzle an empress, plastic neon bracelets, fancy suits and ballgowns, jeans and top branded merchandise from all over the world.  A city of such contrasts is Shanghai.

We enjoy a fabulous farewell dinner with a flaming dish of some sort. We  fondly embrace our new friends and  trade addresses and know we’ll probably never see them again. Unforgettable China.

 

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AN IMPERFECT GARDEN

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 carved historical event.

A  requisite lion.

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.

That night, at our  farewell dinner, we  traded  email addresses with our new friends and said our goodbyes.  I don’t remember  our  farewell dinner  but, I’ll never forget  China.

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