After a five-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens finally opened to great fanfare on Friday with the unveiling of its newly expanded and completed traditional Chinese garden Liu Fang Yuan, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance.
"We are delighted to be able to welcome visitors to explore these exquisite new features that further demonstrate the beauty and depth of Chinese cultural and landscape gardening traditions," says Karen R. Lawrence, president of the Huntington in a statement.
"The debut of these new sections of the Chinese garden coincides with the conclusion of the Huntington's yearlong centennial celebration, and symbolically opens a new chapter in the institution's history," Lawrence adds.
Stephen, a college professor in Los Angeles who was a guest at the opening, says that the garden is "like a living cultural ambassadorship for Chinese culture".
"The harmony of the garden as a whole, the sense of balance within it, its peace and tranquility－all come together in unique and beautiful ways in its traditional Chinese landscapes."
Inspired by the centuries-old Chinese tradition of private scholars' gardens, the Chinese garden made its debut in 2008.
Expanded from its initial 3.5 acres to 15 acres, the garden now is one of the largest Chinese-style classical gardens in the world.
The total cost of this final phase of construction was approximately $24.6 million. This brings the combined total cost of the garden to about $54.6 million, all of which was raised from individual, corporate, and foundation gifts, according to the Huntington.
A US-Chinese construction team was responsible for the project's implementation. More than 50 Chinese artisans from the Suzhou Garden Development Co spent six months at the Huntington, carrying out specialized carpentry, masonry, and tile work for the traditional structures in the final phase. Their craftsmanship gave the garden and buildings in it authenticity and beauty.
With the addition of its new buildings, including a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) scholar's studio, an art gallery, a cafe, and an elegantly undulating miniature forest of penjing (miniature potted landscapes), the garden's flowing vistas are now complemented by several more exotic architectural spaces that frame and accentuate the Huntington's natural beauty with delicacy and finesse.
A steady stream of eager visitors meandered along the paths of the Chinese garden during the opening－all moving along newly designated, one-way paths to ensure proper social distancing for visitors during the pandemic.
All visitors must comply with mandated safety requirements, including a pre-entry symptom check, wearing face coverings, and maintaining physical distancing.
The visitors look relaxed and delighted to be out in such a beautiful setting on a perfect autumn day.
Two Pasadena locals, Elana, a ballerina, and Alex, a jazz musician, who have both performed in China, came to explore the new additions to the Chinese garden and enjoy its tranquil ambiance.
"It's very peaceful here. I grew up in LA so it's always nice to come here and just relax. It's like another world," says Alex.
"The new parts of the garden－especially the scholar's studio and the penjing bonsai garden are really beautiful and unique," adds Elana.
To Rachel and Christopher, another local couple on a photo safari in the garden, the Chinese garden has special significance.
They say that they first met in the Chinese garden in 2018 and split a Huntington membership so they could get to know each other while exploring the garden's romantic vistas. The couple are now married.
"This is a special place for us, "Christopher says. "And the landscape is so beautiful it always helps me to calm down, so I can leave everything outside, and just relax and appreciate the beauty that they've set up here and how well they tend it."
Another local guest, Tim, notes the beauty of the garden. "I love the Huntington and the opportunity to get away to some place beautiful in nature here in the heart of Los Angeles," he says. "It's quite stunning and the work that they've done is just breathtaking."
James Folsom, the Telleen-Jorgensen director of the Botanical Gardens, lauds the contributions from generous community donors, hard-working staff, volunteers, and talented architects and designers from China and the United States without whom the project could not have been made and who all contributed to making the garden the jewel in the Huntington's crown.
"Together we have created a world-class attraction that not only celebrates historical landscape traditions but also embodies the contemporary ideals of international cooperation and cross-cultural exchange," Folsom says.