Ode to the Chinese Garden

Jardin de Chine en hiver © Jardin botanique de Montréal (Michel Tremblay)
Ode to the Chinese Garden

A promise is a promise, and the snow has kept its promises: the Chinese Garden is revealed in a whole new light! The frozen lake, covered in its huge white coat; the curved roof tiles, their gray now mottled; branches of old pine trees bearing mounds of snowflakes, like offerings… Since the beginning of winter, the pavilions, as if set upon an ethereal mist, give the impression of floating, borne by an undeniable lightness. And, seeming to dominate the eternal snows, the Stone Mountain stre-e-e-etches, slowly joining the heavens.

Since the dawn of time

According to Taoism, the Immortals, deities the Chinese character for which is composed of the words “man” and “mountain” – originally inhabited the Kunlun Mountains of western China. That’s why the Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi (221-207 BCE) created a mountain in his garden. He hoped to attract them and learn the secrets of their longevity. In our Montreal winters – whose longevity we would prefer to shorten! – our Stone Mountain inspires and promotes a meditative state, thus fully filling the role attributed to it by ancient scholars. When we remember that private Chinese gardens are meant to be a microcosm of Nature, when we know that in essence they contain the whole of Nature within their walls, we feel privileged to realize that this very Nature descends from the heavens to add its own brushstrokes to the portrait. Without a shadow of human intervention! In imposing its presence, the snow brings us back to the initial purpose of Chinese gardens, inviting us to contemplation, to communion with the universe, to artistic inspiration, to wandering and reflection.

Our private garden...public!

If at the time of the Ming Dynasty, the garden, being private, was the privilege of the wealthy and educated, in Montreal it is accessible to all. The Chinese Garden invites us, as it did long ago, to shelter ourselves – to withdraw, for the duration of a few breaths of fresh air, from the bustle of the city. Winter will leave us in a few weeks, but the warm sun of springtime is certainly an invitation to enjoy the last few minutes of this dreamlike atmosphere.

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