The Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the first such garden built outside of China, is located in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Its placement was influenced by the local Chinese community and its location on the Pacific Rim.
The garden and adjoining park were named for Dr Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925), revolutionary, first president of the Chinese Republic and the "father of modern China." Dr Sun also had a local connection, having visited Vancouver's Chinatown several times while fundraising for his campaign of democracy and the end of Imperial rule in China, a goal achieved in 1911. To distinguish the garden from the neighbouring public park, the classical garden was named Yi Yuan (pronounced Yat Yuen in Cantonese, meaning "Garden of Ease"), recalling one of Dr Sun's courtesy names, Yi Xian (Yat Sen in Cantonese). Courtesy names were used as a "courtesy" or gesture of respect, to avoid the direct use of a man's real name.
The Chinese Cultural Centre made the initial proposal in 1973-74 and in keeping with classical Chinese architecture, the centre's design included the buildings and gardens as integral components of the whole project. The garden opened on 24 April 1986. China's national "Open Door Policy" coincided with the planning of the garden and assisted in the development of the necessary partnerships, including the expertise of the Suzhou Garden Administration (SGA). Together with the local design consultants, the SGA helped plan and build this first full-scale Ming Dynasty-style classical garden outside of China, inspired by the renowned gardens of Suzhou.
A Scholar’s Garden
The Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is modelled after a Chinese scholar's garden. Such a garden, part of a scholar's family home, provides solitary or social contemplation of nature within its walled and asymmetrical arrangement of rooms and pavilions.
Like all traditional Chinese scholars' gardens, the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is a network of cosmic and earthly symbols where its four main elements (rocks, water, plants and architecture) are held in harmony. A stroll through the garden's winding walkways requires one to view its design from many different angles and perspectives—a reminder that there is no "fixed" or "absolute" perspective from which to view the world and society. The dozens of animate and inanimate symbols offer sage advice. Be steadfast through adversity and live long, like the pine tree. Like the blossoming plum in winter, always embody the hope and promise of regeneration. Be firm but flexible, like the bamboo. Be reminded by the grotesque stone that chaos and order are essential aspects of each other.