The Canadian West, Inspired by the East
Canada has always prided itself on its vibrant multiculturalism, a fascinating mosaic of peoples and customs that finds its apogee in Vancouver. Canada’s third largest city has been looking to Asia since Chinese immigrants arrived with the 1858 gold rush (and later to work on the transcontinental railroad).
The massive influx of the 1980s and 1990s, when many left Hong Kong in anticipation of mainland China’s takeover, spurred the city’s transformation into the Pacific Rim melting pot of today.
The traditions of Asia found fertile ground in this former outpost of the British Empire. In a wonderful vision of urban renewal, the Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden rises from a former parking lot on the edge of Vancouver’s Chinatown, the third largest Asian enclave outside the Orient, topped only by those of San Francisco and New York.
It was the first (and is reputed to be the most authentic) full-scale classical Chinese garden ever built outside of China, begun in 1985 by more than fifty skilled traditional artisans and gardeners brought in from Suzhou, China’s famous Garden City. The finished product is a pocket-sized otherworld, a walled oasis of harmony where careful attention is paid to a classical balance between yin and yang: constrasting light and shadow, large and small, smooth and rough – the exquisite re-creation of a typical 14th-century Ming garden.
Almost everything was brought from China, including the pagoda roof tiles, the naturally sculpted rocks, the worn pebbles that create the mosaics covering the winding pathways, and the bronze, bat-shaped door handles.