Dunedin opens authentic Chinese garden
12 Jun 2008
New Zealand’s first authentic Chinese garden - only the third outside of China and the first in the southern hemisphere - has been officially opened in the South Island city of Dunedin.
The NZ$7 million Dunedin Chinese Garden commemorates the Otago region’s long association with China and is seen as a major boost to increasingly friendly relations between the two countries. New Zealand and China signed a free trade agreement earlier this year.
The Chinese have had a long history in the province after they trekked into Central Otago in search of gold. Many returned and set up businesses and market gardens in Dunedin.
Today there are about 2500 descendants of the first Chinese settlers still living in Dunedin, as well as approximately 100 new migrant families from Taiwan and mainland China.
The Dunedin Chinese Garden is situated in the middle of the city's tourist sector, adjacent to the Otago Settlers Museum and near the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, Dunedin’s historic railway station and the new Steamer Wharf development. It’s also close to the Octagon and central retail area.
Chinese take away
Developing an authentic Chinese garden was a dream lead by the Dunedin Chinese Garden Trust with support from the Shanghai Municipal Government and the Dunedin City Council.
The dream was eight years in the making to ensure authenticity and cultural accuracy as well as practical functionality.
The garden was pre-fabricated in Shanghai then dismantled and transported to Dunedin. The Shanghai site was identical in size and shape to that in Dunedin, and construction and design was closely supervised by a Shanghai architect and the Shanghai Museum. Artisans and supervisors then came from Shanghai to oversee the reconstruction in Dunedin.
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and Chinese ambassador to New Zealand Zhang Yuanyuan attended the garden’s blessing.
Mr Zhang said New Zealand had proved to be a good friend of China.
Development of the Dunedin Chinese Garden showed sister city ties went a long way to educating people about cultural diversity, and working together built a harmonious world, Mr Zhang said.
He had visited many Chinese gardens around the world and rated the Dunedin garden as his top pick.
Prime Minister Helen Clark said it mattered to Chinese people how their achievements and culture were viewed around the world, and people viewing the Dunedin Chinese Gardens would see the contributions the Chinese community made to Otago had been fully recognised.
The Dunedin Chinese Garden is an example of a late Ming - early Ching Dynasty Scholar’s Garden. It is surrounded by a four-metre wall.
The Scholar’s Garden was traditionally the focal point of a family compound, which sometimes gathered several hundred family members and servants into a kind of ‘gated’ community.
It was in the Scholar’s Garden part of the compound where guests and important visitors were received and entertained, and where the scholar himself - a highly regarded member of Chinese society - lived and worked.
A Chinese Garden is more than just a garden in the European sense, where rocks, water plants and buildings are important, symbolic, elements.
The Dunedin Chinese Garden uses authentic Chinese materials.
In addition to the hand-made wooden buildings, the garden features hand-made tiles, bricks and lattice-work and granite paving stones, which have been hand-finished.
In particular the use of ‘lake stone’ - 900 tonnes of it - represents an essential element of Chinese art form since the Tang Dynasty (600-900 AD).
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