Where We Live: Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Nestled in the heart of Portland’s Old Town is a garden that transports visitors halfway around the world.

The Lan Su Chinese Garden is one of just 6 authentic Chinese gardens in North America. 

Vera Katz, the late former mayor of Portland, helps dedicate the Lan Su Chinese Garden at its opening in 2000. (Courtesy of Lan Su Chinese Garden)

The land for the garden — roughly the size of a city block — was donated by the utility company, NW Natural. It cost $12 million to create the garden itself which opened in 2000. 

Originally called the Portland Classical Chinese Garden, it was renamed Lan Su Chinese Garden in 2010. 

The garden honors Portland’s relationship with its sister city, Suzhou, China, famous for its gardens. In fact, Lan Su is a combination of Portland and Suzhou and also translates to the garden of awakening orchids. 

Construction on the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Northwest Portland. (Courtesy of Lan Su Chinese Garden)

Sixty-five artisans from China came to Portland to build the garden using hand tools and traditional methods dating back thousands of years. 

Scott Steele, the marketing and communications director at Lan Su Chinese Garden, said no detail was overlooked. 

The wood in the garden is the wood that you would have found in China, said Steele. Everything but the water and the plants were brought from China to be built on-site. 

Scott Steele is the communications and marketing director at Lan Su Chinese Garden, March 30, 2019. (KOIN)

Steele said the garden was designed to unfold like a landscape painting so that visitors can’t see everything at once. 

The garden contains a teahouse, a pavilion and a central pond home to several koi fish. 

The style of garden we are — the Suzhou style of garden — is an urban garden, explained Steele. It’s designed to be a piece of nature in an urban environment.

About 175,000 people visit the garden every year to experience the peace, tranquility and rare beauty it offers. 

A Chinese New Year celebration at the Lan Su Chinese Garden. (Courtesy of Lan Su Chinese Garden)

Hundreds of cultural events, including elaborate Chinese New Year celebrations and Tai chi classes, take place within the garden and are included in the price of admission

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