Maquette of "I Dream, I Seek My Garden."

Here is the third in my presentation of gardens I've enjoyed at Chelsea past.
I Dream, I Seek My Garden was brought to life by a Malaysian, Linda Davies in 2008, with the help of Chinese artist, Shao Fan. Davies said her aim was to introduce modern Chinese gardens to the western world. Backed by KT Wong Charitable Trust, her father’s organization dedicated to promoting cultural understanding and Anglo-Chinese relations, Davies commissioned the acclaimed Shao Fan to make her vision a reality. Designer Sarah Eberle assisted Shao Fan as project manager.

The garden they came up with was designed to seem like it was recently discovered, excavated from an abandoned archaeological site in modern England. The top level is an English meadow which opens out to a hidden Chinese temple garden below. Step into the multi-layered garden, and you are transported to the Song dynasty era where colors are cold and sober. The deliberate ruin is set in a sunken arena deep in the ground and is part landscape, part building and part garden. Within its weathered earthen walls are mossy rocks and venerable artifacts. A semi-dilapitated but magnificent Chinese pavilion stands as a centrepiece in the heart of the garden, the wooden pavilion sinking into the soil to represent the increasing disappearance of traditional Chinese culture. The cultural symbolism of the plants is of paramount importance, notably the pine, bamboo and plum. These are known as the “three friends of winter”, as the first two are evergreen, while the plum flowers bloom only at the end of winter.  The garden is closed off from the outside world by very high walls, which in the traditional Chinese gardens serve the very practical purpose of conferring privacy.

“China’s oldest architecture has survived, but it has been far harder to preserve the gardens. This garden is a way to bridge the present with the China of hundreds of years ago. I’m trying to find a way back to our traditions of art and culture, and for the Western world to have a glimpse of it,” said Shao Fan.