It is possible that the quietest place in Portland may not be the extensive Forest Park nor the Willamette River waterfront, but rather the Chinese Gardens. And that is saying alot considering that the Gardens are located in the city’s downtown core.
Yet, one immediately feels the hush and stillness when entering the Gardens, a peacefulness modeled by our tour guide, who seemed to talk in whispers.
One’s expectations of gardens may need enlarging here as this one city block is actually a window into 16th. century Chinese history and way of thinking, a place where people, ideas and cultures intermingle.
The Gardens open wide all of our senses: a soothing waterfall, the perfume of blossoms, visual delights, and even the rock mosaic underfoot massaging toes and soles, all offer an endless source of contemplation. Inscriptions above the circular moongate doorways remind us to look for meanings and use our senses in new ways.
During construction, none of the Gardens’ natural or man-made entities were scattered randomly, but instead meticulously placed to represent not only their surface meaning…but always something deeper. For example, the plum, bamboo and pine trees are collectively known as the Three Friends of winter and serve to remind us to persevere. The plum braves the cold of winter to blossom; the pine stays green throughout the cold season; and the bamboo bends in storms, but does not break.
Nature’s Spirit wafts through every Garden nook through the philosphy of Daoism. For the Daoists the path of water down a mountainside, following the route of least resistance without being told or forced, exemplifies ziran, or spontaneous naturality. Trying to struggle against the natural world or to force nature to bend to your will is bound to fail. By relaxing and allowing events to take their course everything will eventually fall into place: wu wei er wu bu wei (by doing nothing everything will be done). ~