Finding new places to visit in Canberra
I recently found out that Canberra has Chinese gardens…they were built in 2014 by a team of Chinese artisans who came from China.
I was looking for somewhere to go for Chinese New Year and read about these lovely gardens located near the Chinese Embassy and along the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.The gardens celebrate the sister city link between Canberra and Beijing and is designed in the imperial Chinese garden style of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). The garden’s main feature is a traditional Chinese welcome gate guarded by two stone lions.
Once you have taken in the lovely views through the welcome gate you walk down the handcrafted steps which were made by the Chinese stonemasons and past Chinese stone sculptures depicting the four celestial symbols in Chinese mythology.
Each of the four animals depicted on the stones represent the four cardinal points and the four seasons. The Black Tortoise (north/winter), the Azure Dragon (east/spring), the Scarlet Bird (south/summer) and the White Tiger (west/autumn). [oops just realised I only photographed three]
Next is a Chinese pavilion which offers a retreat from the sun and is clearly used by the local pigeons as they have left quite a lot of their droppings behind. The pavilion was built using marble and timber imported from China and using traditional building methods, such as interlocking joints ie no screws/nails.There are also lovely roof figures on the pavilion. These are statuettes placed along the ridge line of official buildings in particular in the Chinese empire. It is said that only official buildings (palaces, government buildings, and some temples) were permitted to use them but of course times have changed and I was able to buy some in Beijing whilst living there.There is also a Stone of Appreciation which has been brought from Tai Lake near Shanghai. Limestone pieces such as these were often used as garden ornaments in the Tang Dynasty. Actually the Forbidden City has a large stone garden at the rear which is quite beautiful.Then onwards toward Lotus Bay where there are lovely individual sculptures of cranes…
After seeing these lovely statues you walk towards the lake to a large replica statue of the Bronze Galloping Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow known in Chinese as Ma Ta Fei Yan马踏飞燕 and is regarded as a national treasure in China. The original sculpture is from the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) and was unearthed by local farmers in Wuwei Country, Gansu Province in 1969.
I read about the horse some years ago and in late 2014 I returned to China to see both the bronze statue at the Gansu Provincial Museum and the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park (Rainbow Mountains) – both were amazing.
The original statue is relatively small. It measures about 34 cm high and is 41 cm long. It’s posture is said to be unique and carefully balanced according to dynamics. The horse is raising its head, neighing and galloping forward and with one foot treading on a flying swallow. That swallow accentuates the power and speed of the galloping horse.
Back to the gardens…whilst they are relatively small, they are really lovely and worth a visit especially as there are BBQ facilities for a nice BBQ lunch or dinner. In fact I am going there this weekend for a picnic with my Chinese language teacher. Located near the gardens are the Japanese Gardens which are also worth a visit [more on those later]..