A couple of times each working day I lock my computer and take my empty cup back to the kitchen on my office floor. Placing the empty ceramic cup on the coffee machine I subconsciously pick ‘Flat White’ from the array of buttons, avoiding the ‘too sweet’ hazelnut mocha option and the pedestrian ‘Long Black’ choice. Not wanting to waste the 30 seconds it takes for the cup to fill by just staring blankly at the machine I walk the few steps to the window to check out what is on the other side. As my eyes scan the panorama before them they almost always drift down to the ‘neighbours place’, a walled garden full of mystique.
As the coffee machine chimes into life, an indication that it’s mundane job is complete, I turn back from the world outside, an unspoken promise on my lips – “I really need to go visit those Chinese Gardens some day.”
That day arrived in April 2017, when my dad and youngest brother came over to visit us in Sydney and an opportunity arose to actually go and visit.
As we reached the entrance we were greeted by a pair of lions (or shishi) statues maintaining a silent vigil. They are tasked with protecting the temple against evil spirits and are able said to repel them with magical powers. The one on the right (the male) is leaning his front paw on an embroidered orb representing the world whilst the other one (the female) has a playful cub under her left paw.
Walking through the portal we were transported back in time. The urban jungle of Sydney replaced with a blissful oasis of bamboo trees, Pavilions, water features and nostalgia for our time in China. Crossing that threshold had an immediate effect.
29 years earlier, during Australia’s bicentenary celebrations, the gardens were gifted to the people of Sydney from it’s twin sister city Guangzhou in China. The Chinese Garden of Friendship is modeled after the classic private gardens of the Ming Dynasty and it presents an insight into Chinese language and heritage.
One of the main features was a Dragon Wall with the Blue Dragon symbolising New South Wales and the Golden Dragon Guangzhou.
Set along the inner lake (Lake of Brightness), that is dotted with lotus plants and in amongst the towering willow trees is the Water Pavillion of Lotus Fragrance and the Twin Pavillion. There is even a waterfall or two dotted around 🙂
As you can see from the above photos, not only were we enjoying ourselves but John Senior did his best to point out all the little details, especially the flowers and the lacquered wooden frames within the pagoda.
The entire garden is not organised like a Western Garden would be, with symmetrical flowerbeds and lines of trees. It just seems to organically coalesce out of the garden with the guiding principles of the Five Opposite elements – Earth,Fire,Water,Metal and Wood
So far we have talked about the trees, water, buildings and plants but another fascinating part of the garden is the amount of wildlife it contains. Water Dragons, Koi Carp, all manner of insects are contained within. Even the Sydney Scavenger itself, the Ibis Bird, is transformed into something a bit more special in these surroundings.
Another feature tucked away in the corner is the Rock Forest. All manner of stones arranged like a friendly chorus of Golems – rigidly standing attention. One wonders if they move when the doors are closed each evening.
We had such an enjoyable visit and were taken in by all this one hectare (yes one) garden had to offer that we completely forgot about sampling the tea from the Tea Room on the way.
Hopefully we will not need to wait for too long to visit the Gardens again.
Most of our readers will have been to the Chinese Gardens before but not realised it yet? You may have had a shard of a memory from some of the photos but cannot quite place it?
The reason you are feeling that way is because as well as a symbol of friendship and a tourist destination, the Gardens have a third occupation as a film location.
2013’s The Wolverine (starring local boy Hugh Jackman) filmed the ‘Funeral Scene’ here as well as 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers had some scenes filmed here as part of the sequence where Dulcea trains the Rangers).