Monday, September 30, 2013

An Introduction to the Chinese Garden of Friendship 華園

Botanica is planning an expansion to include a Scholar-type Chinese garden, inviting traditional Chinese gardening to Wichita. The Chinese Garden of Friendship will demonstrate traditional Chinese architecture, art and culture to inspire the community.

Bird’s eye view of the Chinese Garden of Friendship (Images courtesy of GLMV Architecture)

The Chinese Garden of Friendship will be located at the northeast corner of Botanica. The Scholar-type design reached its peak during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD) and has since become famous around the world. Kaifeng, Henan, China, is a sister city to Wichita, and was the capital city of the Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD). Kaifeng has a long history of building Chinese gardens. The new addition will reflect the cultural, historical and architectural relationship between the two cities.


The design creates a series of unique spaces found in the traditional Scholar-type Chinese garden and detailed architecture with elegant Song Dynasty style. At the same time, it reflects an understanding of Chinese culture and history, using a specialized and sophisticated knowledge of traditional Chinese and modern American building techniques. It will comply with all ADA (handicapped accessibility) rules. Local building materials will be used.

The site of the Chinese Garden of Friendship will encompass a little more than 0.3 acre. Traditional Chinese gardening, architecture, culture, art and philosophy are revealed through experiencing this space. The Chinese Garden is divided into two major parts. On the southeast side will be the courtyard, with an inner garden area. This area will be known as the “earthly world,” an area where people live, work and experience “earthly life.” The “heavenly world,” or “dream world,” will be found on the north side. It will be a peaceful place that reflects the owner’s ideal dream world.

A prominent part of the Chinese Garden is a manmade mountain with a series of various traditional Chinese architectural features, including a small waterfall and cliffs harmoniously placed around the edge of the pond.

The design layout of the two areas creates a balance between the southeastern garden area and the multifaceted scenery of the landscape.

Southeast Part – “Earthly World”

Traditionally, the southeast part is the housing area. It could be residential, educational or serve other purposes. This part is a living and working area. It connects the noisy, dirty "earthly world" with the pure, peaceful "dream world" of the garden. The formal design of this area demonstrates the authority of the owner.

Rose Wind Pavilion 薇風廊

The southeast part consists of a closed entrance space, to visually prepare visitors entering the garden. It is a formal courtyard with a pagoda-styled sculpture to recall the Kaifeng cast-iron pagoda. It will be located in the center of the courtyard, defining the main axis of the southeast part of the Chinese Garden and showing the connection between Wichita and Kaifeng. It also introduces the element of Buddhism, which influenced China for thousands of years. The principal building is the Rose Wind Pavilion. It is architecturally detailed in Song Dynasty style and will be the place for assembly, photo opportunities related to weddings and other activities. The series of varied spaces compose a major axis of the east part and emphasize the formal style of the Chinese Garden. This especially captures the idea of the absolute authority and control the owner has over this space.

Northwest Part – “Heavenly World”

The northwest part is the “dream world,” or “heavenly world.” Nature, or the gods, rule this area and have power and authority in contrast to the southeast part. Meanwhile, it is designed as part of the house owner’s world view, and ideally is the reflection of the perfect universe in his or her mind. This also is a very personalized area. This part of the Chinese Garden consists of the Rose Wind Pavilion, an inviting place for gathering of friends to discuss politics, poetry or philosophy. A group of artificial rocks surrounds Treasured Friend Pavilion with a bench and a view of bamboo plants. Treasured Friend Pavilion offers an ideal and private place to enjoy the entire garden. This promotes inner peace, personal awareness, understanding and meditation. A curved, tile-capped wall connects the two pavilions, featuring a mural of the famous painting “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” by Song Dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan. There is a small waterfall running out of the cliff, which represents living water gathering to the ocean. There is also a mountain of stacked stones representing the closest place to the heavens. All of these are around a pure Koi (dragon, fortune, wellness and happiness)-living pond, obviously representing the ocean. The Thousand-Foot Bridge will provide a place to pause and think while looking at the mirror of this world reflected in the pure and peaceful water. The bridge also divides the water into two parts. The smaller area will be the aquatic plant garden representing an inland lake. Finally, a small island will be located in the middle of the “ocean,” a place where many gods reside. 

Treasured Friend Pavilion 珍友亭

Qingming Mural Wall

The Chinese Garden actually depicts the whole universe. According to traditional Chinese philosophy, the sky, or the heaven, has a round shape and the earth a square shape. The sky in the Chinese Garden is shaped by its reflection in the round pond. The site of the courtyard (earthly world) is defined by the surrounding square-shape walls. The garden contains sky, sun, moon, stars, earth, mountain, ocean, lake, river, island, plants and animals. They are formed by the five essential elements, which are metal (stone), wood, water, fire and earth. This is the form of the universe in traditional Chinese philosophy. The Chinese Garden demonstrates how harmoniously and peacefully all elements coexist.


The architecture of the Chinese Garden is outstanding by its elegant Song Dynasty style, beautiful shaping and delicate designs. The pavilions around the Chinese Garden share the characteristics of small-sized, low-height and penetrative patterns. Stones are used in the bench, table, and bank. Lake-stones are used in the mountain. There are many plants in the Chinese Garden. The main species of plants are prunus mume, bamboo, green maple, black pine, willow, wisteria and yulan. Flowers such as peony, chrysanthemum and Chinese narcissus are planted throughout the Chinese Garden. The fully designed layout of the Chinese Garden and the topography of the site are perfectly matched. It not only minimizes the grading, but also maximizes the use of nature’s energy.

Buildings and bricked or cobbled paths in the Chinese Garden are fully accessible to the disabled.

Theme of the Garden

Prunus mume is the theme of the Chinese Garden. The love for prunus mume in China is traditional in that it stands for the unyielding integrity of a pure and honest person when facing adversity. Personified prunus mume often appears in prose and verse. Decorated with the design of prunus mume, the Chinese Garden expresses the admiration for prunus mume and freedom from vulgarity. As the famous Chinese poet Su Shi writes, “头千树春欲暗,竹外一枝斜更好,” “There are thousands of shady trees in spring beside the river. A branch of prunus mume beyond the bamboo looks even better.” This describes the theme of the Chinese Garden perfectly.


With exquisite gardening techniques, deep cultural details and elegant garden intensions, the Chinese Garden of Friendship will be a unique Chinese garden in the United States. It will benefit the community it belongs to. It will promote the friendship between two sister cities to a new level. It will become a national scenic delight, and will gain a high reputation across the country.