Thursday, 14 April 2011


“How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence.” - Benjamin Disraeli

I was in Sydney for the day for work today, and once again it was a very full but satisfying day as a lot did get done and I was able to look at our new campus premises there. They are situated in the CBD and are in a large, modern building close to public transport, facilities, shops, services. I always like visiting Sydney, and especially so today as it was a glorious autumn day, mild and sunny. Although Melbourne is crowded and busy and cosmopolitan, Sydney is even more crowded and one often forgets that until one gets there. The traffic alone was horrendous, but walking in the City, the number of people rushing hither and thither was a bit of a challenge…

Our new premises are close to Chinatown and Darling Harbour, so it is an enviable location! One of my favourite places in Sydney is the Chinese Garden of Friendship. It is a serene, green and beautiful pocket of paradise in the midst of the helter-skelter of the metropolis. The Garden is located at the southern end of Darling Harbour, near the Sydney Entertainment Centre and adjacent to Chinatown. It is open daily from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm and attracts many local and international visitors.

The project of the Garden was begun by the Sydney Chinese community as a means of sharing their rich cultural heritage with their adopted homeland of Australia. The celebration of Australia’s 1988 Bicentenary, was the occasion for realising this project and the Chinese Garden is the result of a close bond of friendship and cooperation between the sister cities of Sydney and Guangzhou in Guangdong Province, China.

The Chinese Garden of Friendship was designed and built by Chinese landscape architects and gardeners. Similar to every classical Chinese Garden, there are traditional principles, which are considered and govern the use of four key elements of water, vegetation, stone and architecture. Together, these four elements combine to create perfect rapport with one another. The concepts of Yin and Yang, Feng Shui as well as artistic aesthetics all combine to create a harmonious and balanced whole, that leaves the visitors refreshed and calm once they have entered the compound.

The art of Chinese Garden design began in imperial parks during the Shang dynasty 3000 years ago. Later, gardens flourished on a smaller scale in the private gardens of China’s rich and powerful nobility and the successful merchant class. The Chinese Garden of Friendship at Darling Harbour is a scaled-down version of a typical private garden from this era.

Chinese Gardens differ from western-style gardens in that there are no planted flowerbeds or manicured lawns. Instead, wild aspects of nature are recreated in artfully designed landscapes that feature waterfalls, mountains, lakes and forests in “miniature”. While full-scale trees are used, there are symbolic elements that signify a clump of beautifully shaped rocks as “tall mountain”, a stand of trees as “forest”, and a large pond as “lake”, etc.

Exploring a Chinese Garden is a journey of discovery in which one finds many details that all blend together in a satisfying whole. One wanders along the pathways, crosses the bridges, climbs hillocks, observing only that part of the Garden that is visible at a time. Changing vistas bring into view new delights and surprising elements that refresh the soul and caress the eyes. As one follows the serpentine walkways, one encounters elegant pavilions, sheltered walkways and a pagoda or two scattered amongst the greenery and the rocky landscape. Private courtyards alternate with water features and art in the form of pottery, sculpture and bas reliefs for an integral part of the experience. A wonderful place to visit indeed!

serenity |səˈrenitē| noun ( pl. -ties)
The state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled: An oasis of serenity amidst the bustling city.
• (His/Your, etc., Serenity) a title given to a reigning prince or similar dignitary.
ORIGIN late Middle English: From Old French serenite, from Latin serenitas, from serenus ‘clear, fair’.


  1. I thought I must have got the suburb wrong.. the tea gardens I visited ages ago were not in Darling Harbour. But they weren't Chinese either *sigh* - they were Japanese. Older age must be dulling my brain.

    You note the traditional principles which govern the use of the four biggies: water, vegetation, stone and architecture. I hope the four elements really do combine to create perfect harmony together because

    a] in our modern cities, architecture totally dominates
    b] people in a huge, chaotic city really do need somewhere to feel refreshed.

  2. Yes, Hels, this is as central as it gets! See the horrible apartment buildings in the background?
    It is a really lovely place to visit and should be amongst the top items in the must-see list for Sydney!

  3. Hello:
    An absolutely fascinating and informative post which we have very much enjoyed reading. The gardens do, indeed, look to be beautiful and must, as you remark, provide a wonderful green oasis within a hectic city.

    Although very different from Western gardens,you mention that to be in the garden is to be on a voyage of discovery. This, a narrative within a garden, is we believe an essential component of a successful garden anywhere and at any time.

  4. Gardens have evolved as islands of serenity and contemplation in a world that is often stressful and hectic. This garden in Sydney sounds wonderful. Definitely a place worthy of a visit!

  5. How beautiful that looks! I love Japanese and Chinese gardens. They look so peaceful and in tune with the environment. So natural and restful.
    As you say, this is a bit of paradise in the middle of a big modern city.

  6. Wow!!!! That looks gorgeous!!!!
    You are very lucky to have that in the middle of a huge city....