It was hot. Very hot. I had just had lunch and a chin-wag with M-R in Pyrmont, a suburb of Sydney only a spit away from the Harbour Bridge. I wanted to return to the Chinese Garden of Friendship, an oasis in the heart of Darling Harbour which is predominantly restaurants and leisure facilities. I first visited this garden in 1998 when it was very new so I wanted to see how it had developed over the past 16 years.
The entrance to the garden is guarded by two Foo-dogs (Chinese lions) which have been carved from rare Chinese granite. Always in pairs the female with her cub guards to the left whilst the male, with a ball of chi (energy), guards to the right.
Once through the entrance you enter the Courtyard of Welcoming Fragrance and the Penjing exhibition, which means ‘tray scenery’ and demonstrates the art of creating a miniature landscape.
The garden is governed by Taoist principles of ‘Yin Yang’ and the five opposite elements – earth, fire, water, metal and wood. These principles also stress the importance of qi, the central force of life and energy. For me it was simply a joy to wander through the grounds and absorb the peace and tranquillity and shade provided by the pavilions, the black pine trees and the bamboo glades.
You can enjoy panoramic views across the Lake of Brightness to distant pavilions and watch koi swim amidst the reflections of the still water. Groves of black bamboo evokes a Taoist retreat. Bamboo is a symbol of old age and humility. The sound of flowing water from the waterfall and cascades and the fragrance of white jasmine pervades the air and there are seats and benches where you can sit and relax and contemplate the beauty of the garden.
Featuring a traditional moongate the Pavilions amongst Bamboo and Rock is an intimate garden within a garden. Walls of bamboo and running water create a secret garden offering glimpses of the nearby lake and waterfall.
And at the garden’s highest point is a beautiful hexagonal, two-storey building – the Pavilion of Clear View, known as the Gurr. The golden roof tiles and intricate wood carvings are gifts from Guangdong.
Dragons, which can be seen throughout the garden occupy a very important place in Chinese mythology. They are seen as benevolent guardians and are associated with good fortune, so I felt very lucky indeed to see not one, but two beautiful Eastern Water Dragons whilst wandering around the garden.
The garden was initiated by the local Chinese community to celebrate Australia’s 1988 Bicentenary. It is a result of close friendship and cooperation between the sister cities of Sydney and Guangzhou in the Guangdong Province, China.