An oasis amidst the chaos: Chinese garden in Vancouver 15

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It’s strange the things we take for granted when we live somewhere. The attitude that, “I can visit that place any time” but never actually do, is definitely not a rare one.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say that we lived in Vancouver for 5 years and never entered the pay section of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Classical Chinese Garden until we returned as tourists. If we had, we probably would have visited this oasis often. We did visit the free section almost every time we were in Chinatown shopping for ingredients. This is the section they call the park, it is also peaceful but always more crowded.

Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Yin and Yang

Chinese gardens are a perfect balance of yin (negative, dark, feminine) and yang (positive, bright, masculine), chaos and peace.  And Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Classical Chinese garden is an ideal example, built in the middle of busy Chinatown in Vancouver.  The total cost of building the garden as it stands today was over 7 million dollars.

Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Ming Dynasty

You’ve certainly seen Chinese gardens in other cities but this is the first classical garden built outside of China.  It’s modelled after the highest standards of private classical gardens in the city of Suzhou during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).  Fifty three experts from Suzhou spent over a year building the garden.  The methods and tools they used were almost identical to the ones used centuries ago.

Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden


The first thing you’ll notice when you enter Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Classical Chinese Garden is that your shoulders will drop a few inches and a feeling of peace will surround you like a cozy blanket.  If you look up you’ll notice high-rise buildings outside the walls but inside you’ll find everything you should in a classical Chinese garden; rocks, water, plants and architecture, all arranged in the traditional way.

Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Guided tours

A tour was starting as we walked in, so we listened to the introduction, continuing the visit as a self-guided adventure with the map that was given to us at the entrance.  We could still hear the guide’s explanations as we toured on our own which was nice and informative.

Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Some of the “must-see highlights” according to their brochure are:

  • fish feeding: 11:45 am daily from May to October.
  • balanced opposites: symbols of natural yin and yang are all over the garden
  • the magic of rainy days: covered pathways allow you to visit without getting wet
  • leak windows: those beautifully cut out windows that let air, light and views leak through to other areas

Have you ever been to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver?  What other Chinese Gardens have you visited outside of China?


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About Nat and Tim Harris

Together for close to a quarter of a century, A Cook Not Mad‘s Tim and Nat have indulged their passion for life and experience to the fullest, but they feel most alive when traveling, cooking and eating. An award winning chef, Tim has dedicated his life and career to cooking and the pursuit of honest food. As a professional photographer, Nat records their adventures with incredible pictures of everyday life and the extraordinary. They believe that everyone should get to know a culture by learning about the foods they eat and living like locals as much as they can.

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