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US library creates legacy with Chinese Garden expansion

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-09-08 10:46
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The Phase 2 expansion of their Chinese "Garden of Flowing Fragrances" at the Huntington Library in Los Angeles will triple the size of the Chinese Gardens. [Photo provided to China Daily]

James Folsom, director of the Botanical Gardens of the Huntington, credited with initiating the idea of building a Chinese Garden at the Huntington, told Xinhua that it all began with the realization that many of the flowers Americans think of as the very heart of American horticulture actually originated in China.

"Day lilies, spirea, wisteria, camelias, forsythia, even some varieties of roses, all came from China," he said. "Also, China has a 2000 to 3000-year history of cultivating plants in a culture where living in harmony with plants and one's natural surroundings is a core aspect of their lives. We wanted to celebrate that."

And with Southern California boasting the largest population of Chinese outside of China, with over 300,000 living in the San Gabriel Valley area alone, the Huntington was the Chinese Garden's natural home.

What followed was a long and winding journey (not unlike one of the beautiful, wandering ways that thread contentedly through the Garden of Flowing Fragrances) as the Huntington took almost two decades to develop, implement and complete Phase 1 of the Chinese Garden on its current, stunningly beautiful, 3.5 acres site. The garden opened in 2008 with eight tile-roofed pavilions situated around a one-acre lake. In 2014, two new pavilions and a rock grotto were added.

But that may pale in comparison to the even more ambitious 8.5 acres plan of Phase 2 that broke ground Tuesday.

"A garden is never done. It just continues to grow and evolve. Which brings me to some of the remaining donor opportunities," chuckled Folsom.

The next phase of the Garden is budgeted at $23 million (157 million yuan), of which $19 million has already been raised, bringing the total 20-year outlay on developing the garden to $53 million. The garden will remain open to visitors during construction, with the new sections anticipated to open in February 2020.

Lisa Blackburn, the Library's communications coordinator, told Xinhua, "Expanding the Chinese Garden is not just to increase the garden's footprint, but an opportunity to advance interpretive programming and put the garden in the cultural context that it deserves so we can enhance our understanding of Chinese culture."

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