Culture Corner


Garden of Flowing Fragrance at the Huntington 

The Garden of Flowing Fragrance, a treasure of the Huntington Library and Botannical Gardens in Los Angeles, is one of the largest Suzhou-style gardens outside of China. Carefully designed to evoke the poetic beauty and rich tradition of classical Chinese gardens while responding to the local California landscape, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance represents a unique cross-cultural collaboration between Chinese and Californian artists, architects, and scholars. Stroll the garden's meandering paths, admire the intricate lattice-enclosed pavillions framed by the waving branches of native oak and pine trees, and enjoy thousands of years of Chinese philosophy, art, and poetry harmoniously manifest in this Southern California landscape.

Construction of the garden began in 2004, and the first phase was completed in 2008. Phase II will incorporate three new features on the garden's north and west sides, currently under construction. Authentic building materials, designed and fabricated by Chinese artisans, were shipped over to the garden site, and garden design specialists from Suzhou flew over to assist the local builders and engineers charged with meeting California earthquake codes. Pavillions, winding hallways, a tea house, and a stone boat line the edges of the central man-made lake, blending beautifully into the undisturbed natural surrounding forest. Imported scholar rocks from Lake Tai and intricately carved stone bridges reference stoic mountains, while the reflective surface of the lake and flowing water features symbolize change and adaptation. The garden's various trees and flowers bloom and die in accordance with the seasons, creating a dynamic viewing experience that changes throughout the year. The Chinese garden architectural elements, incorporating circular windows, lattices, and winding corridors, intentionally frames views of the garden's natural beauty so that they may be appreciated like classical ink landscape paintings. The buildings themselves feature passages of Chinese poetry and literature rendered by contemporary master calligraphers.

Visitors wishing to visit the Garden of Flowing Fragrance may do so during The Huntington's regular hours. There are tours and audio guides for the garden available, as well. Public programs celebrating Chinese culture, including Chinese holiday celebrations, guest lectures by scholars, and musical performances, are regularly held in the Chinese Garden. For more information about visiting and appreciating the Garden of Flowing Fragrance, please visit The Huntington's website, linked below. 


-Adapted from The Huntington Gardens' Chinese Garden web page

Chinese Garden Curator Duncan Campbell gives a talk to the 2015 Summer Institute On China teacher fellows