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Growing Chinese Gardens in the US
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A landscape design institute in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, is to send a delegation of craftsmen to the US next month to help cultivate the largest overseas Chinese garden.

The project at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, east of Los Angeles, got under way in early 2004.

US workers are responsible for the concrete part of the traditional garden, while Chinese craftsmen will do the decorating and sculpting.

The group from Suzhou, a city known for its beautiful gardens, was invited by project leaders to help finish the first phase of the 12-acre garden, including the decoration of a man-made lake and its surrounding areas, according to Lu Hongren, a general engineer at Suzhou Landscape Architecture and Design Institute.

For authenticity's sake, even the materials needed have to be carefully chosen. The craftsmen will use 650-ton lake stones and thousands of pieces of wood and stone sculptures chiseled in Suzhou and sent to the US in 52 containers last month.

The craftsmen plan to spend 10 weeks assembling the pieces around the man-made lake at the site, Lu said.

According to Xie Aihua, chief designer with the institute, all the scenes in the Chinese garden will be given idyllic Chinese names for full effect.

The site will encompass four gardens named after the four seasons, and five special collection gardens, which will all be linked by pavilions and winding pathways.

Each of the four seasonal gardens will have plants that reflect the different periods of the year: peach trees for spring, lotus for summer, osmanthus for autumn, and plum blossoms for winter.

"When it's completed, the Huntington Chinese Garden will be the largest classical Chinese garden outside of China," according to June Li, curator of the garden.

US immigration officials initially denied visas to the Suzhou designers last September because they did not consider the project an important cultural exchange program, but they reversed their decision in January after appeals from Huntington.

"We would have had to halt the project if we couldn't get the skilled Suzhou workers here, because we didn't want to sacrifice the structures' authentic craftsmanship," Steven Koblik, president of the Huntington Library, was quoted by AFP as saying.

"The craftsmen all obtained their cultural exchange visas earlier this month and are preparing to begin their journey," Lu said.

(China Daily February 14, 2006)


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