After establishing ties with its Chinese counterpart, Suzhou, in the year 2000 saw the opening of the Lan Su Chinese Garden, which serves to educate visitors about Chinese history and customs.
Set on a little over a city block in the heart of Portland area, this serene setting combines rocks, plants, trees, gardens, and a lake. Traditional houses and walkways were built by Suzhou-based artisans using imported native Chinese plants.
A beautiful tea house sits at the end of the garden. Tours, both guided and self-directed, can be taken, and regular events like mahjong, tai chi, and tea tastings are also offered. Visitors are welcome to bring their own cameras to the gardens, but tripods are strictly prohibited.
Beginning in the 1980s, locals worked toward the goal of creating a Chinese garden in the Rose City, and by 1988, Suzhou and Portland were officially recognized as sister cities. In the 1990s, then-Mayor of Portland Vera Katz continued these efforts and helped the nonprofit that runs the garden locate a suitable location.
Ground was broken on the $12.8 million garden, designed by Kuang Zhen and built by 65 Suzhou artisans over the course of 14 months on property provided by NW Natural for a 99-year lease in July 1999. In order to create this garden, 500 tons of rock were imported from China. These rocks included Chinese scholar’s rocks from Lake Tai.
In September of 2000, the garden officially opened to the public. Central lake construction has occasionally resulted in issues, such as leakage and the drowning of three visitors in one incident. Ten years after its opening, the garden was rechristened in 2010 as Lan Su Chinese Garden to celebrate the landmark’s decade-long existence. Su stands for Suzhou, while Lan is for Portland.
A majority of the plants on display are native to China. However, because of restrictions, no plants were imported from China. Instead, many specimens were discovered in Oregon gardens and nurseries, having been cultivated from plants imported prior to the ban. The garden is home to several plants that are more than a century old. The garden is home to over a hundred different kinds of trees, orchids, water plants, perennials, bamboo, and odd bushes. There are almost 400 different species. Within the garden’s artificial landscape, Lake Zither stands out as the main attraction.