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There’s a reason why gardens are protected in the land of the dragon.  Amid continuous perceptions of China, you know which ones I mean… The indiscriminate spitting, a toddler relieving himself on the street, e-bikes nearly colliding with bodies, bone splinters in meat — need I go on?

See, in a Chinese garden you rarely, if ever, encounter such harsh truisms.

Gardens are the no-fly zone.  They are pristine.  Watered.  Tended.  Trimmed.  Workers are on hand around the clock to clean up debris, rake leaves and fertilize.  Everything is flecked with gold and wine porters all oiled up in tight-fitting loincloths fill up your empty glass!  Er.. scratch that.  Heh.  I get my gardens mixed up sometimes.

Back to Chinese gardens.

Why are they so important to the culture?  As a Chinese proverb says: “If you want to be happy forever, make a garden.”

Gardens were constructed for emperors, merchants, scholars, artists and writers.  Even the common man, by escaping to a public garden.  They are meant to be discovered slowly, over time.

I use to tutor a Chinese man who longs to travel and wanted to improve his conversational English.  Once, he and I were walking by a canal flanked with landscaping.  He pointed out a willow tree, and beside that, was a plum blossom tree.  Then he pointed out another willow tree, with yet another plum blossom tree, until I finally noticed the pattern.  “In China, gardens are always done this way.  A willow tree and a plum tree together.”

With elements of rock, water, architecture (pavilions, temples, bridges, towers, galleries), flowers and trees, Chinese gardens symbolize harmony between man and nature.  A setting to re-balance, gain perspective and re-energize.

Even though everything [in the garden] is the work of man, it must appear to have been created by heaven.. – Ji Cheng, Yuanye, or The Craft of Gardens (1633)

With that paradise on earth notion, I sought out some nature at Méi Yuan Park in Wuxi.

See, in my China there are plum blossoms. Oodles of them.  Baskets teeming.  No car horns bellowing.  Some pretty things to gawk at.  Especially no spitting.  Give three feet of physical space, instead of one.  Walking without peering behind, left or right in fear of an e-bike hurling towards me, about to nick half my leg off.  Pathetic denial and utter unreality.  For about two hours.

That’s spring in China.  Enjoy the visual show!

Méi Yuan Park recycled some tires to use as garden decoration pieces. “Méi” is Chinese for plum!  You learn something new everyday.

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I loved how vibrant the purple is!

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People in touch with nature — a lovely sight.

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Why do tulips make people giddy?

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I’ve seen these same features in many Chinese gardens.  Arches constructed over stone-slab raised pathways.

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Roses!  A classic.

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A teaser…

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I’ve held out long enough.

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I must confess, not sure what these are, but does beauty need to have a name?

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Back to why you’re reading this.

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Another breathtaking setting.

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I was quite enamoured with these — lightly brushed pink tones.

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My friend pointed out these trees with the gnarled branches, a sculpture formed from Mother Nature.

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More fascinating shapes.  Reminded me of druids! Very primal.

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A garden is incomplete without daffodils.

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Okay, to silence your whining, a few more.

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You could see the plum blossoms as early as February, but I wouldn’t recommend seeing them in cold, crappy  weather.  Try mid-March until the end of April and you’re sure to see the blossoms, among other flowers blooming!  By summer, the trees lose their petals and the actual plums make an appearance.  Then you can visit again, steal some plums, and be chased off the property by Chinese security.

Happy plum blossom viewing!