At 578 Carrall Street, you’ll find a way out of Vancouver’s 21st-century urban jungle. Walk through the doorway and escape into a classical Chinese garden—a place of leak windows, Taihu rocks, blooming peonies, and jade-coloured water.
For the last 35 years, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden has been a portal to a vibrant past and bright future. This weekend, I contemplated both as I celebrated this important occasion with them.
Getting to Know the Garden
The Garden opened in April 1986, just prior to Expo. It was the first full-scale classical Chinese garden constructed outside of China. What a massive undertaking! Materials from China, such as Ginkgo wood and river bed pebbles, were imported. Craftsmen from Suzhou, China came to Vancouver and worked on it for more than a year, using only traditional building methods, all to create this unique place in our city. When the Garden opened, it meant a lot to everyone involved and the community as a whole.
However, I was still in elementary school and didn’t actually find my way to the Garden until I turned 20.
I remember seeing pictures of the Garden’s Moon gates on TV. At the time, I was studying photography and I knew the gates would perfectly frame the natural surroundings in my photos. So, that’s when I made my first trip through the doorway and experienced my first tour. Little did I know I’d fall in love with the Garden that day and many years later, I’d be leading tours of my own.
Connecting with contemporary Chinese culture
Over the years, I’ve spent lots of time at the Garden. I love just sitting and looking at the blossoms on the trees and listening to the birds like I did this weekend, but I also enjoy attending cultural events. These have included smaller events like Chinese tea ceremonies, contemporary art exhibits, and musical performances, as well as larger, pre-pandemic events like the Lunar New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival.
I’ve met people in the Chinatown community and learned more about the area’s historic buildings. Chinatown was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 2010, and more recently, Vancouver has applied to have it designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Note: The Garden is currently open Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. (last entry time at 3 p.m.). You can book tickets here.