2013 DIALOGUE OF THE PENJING WORLD FORUM– Part 3

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TANG YUAN CHINESE GARDEN

We were split into two groups because there were not enough seats on one plane from Guangzhou to Xi’an. We were joined again and bussed again (only one and a half hours this time) to the next hotel for three nights.

We drove and drove and drove, made many turns down narrow roads in the middle of nowhere. There were landscape trees in nurseries and rocks in quarries. The area looked like an industrial park. Suddenly the area opened to a beautifully landscape hotel spread out throughout beautiful gardens named China Tang Yuan Garden Hotel.

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We then took a long walk as I scooted around and helped in hilly areas and up and down the many stairs. We passed a large area of bonsai, one section was filled with pines, another with cycads, another with podocarpus and even more species. There were hundreds of trees being grown for displaying throughout the hotel and for rental.

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Our tour through the garden continued through beautiful stroll gardens full of large size bonsai and stones. Suddenly we came upon a series of waterfalls, all in a row which looked quite natural. We passed a large building and saw many stones inside, Chiara Padrini from Italy really wanted to visit, but we were not allowed. The building was all stone and looked like a museum. As we went down another path I noticed an entire grove of Chinese quince garden trees, all upright. I asked what they were as the fruit is larger than my specimens and the translator quickly took out here iPhone (of course) and looked up the species and was told they were Papaya. I then asked to see the Chinese characters and recognized them as Chinese quince. I guess the internet translations are not always reliable.

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Ok this place is getting to be overwhelming and I had to sit awhile, wondering what government agency owns the garden. Finally I discovered it is owned by ONE man, Mr. Zhang Xiao Pin, a very successful business man in the hotel, restaurant and more areas. Wait, the tour gets even better! He likes bonsai and fine items. After figuring out the area we discovered the entire complex is over 1,000 (that’s one thousand) acres and is THE largest private garden in all of China. The complex includes the hotel, several restaurants. We have eaten in different restaurants for ever meal, and have never been served the same food, and all the serving plates are different too. In addition to the restaurants there is a tree nursery and stone area, which we drove through upon arrival, an exhibition building and calligraphy museum. And there is a golf course, which we did not see. There were several large areas for training bonsai, and developed specimens wee displayed in scenic areas. Mr. Pin helped support this unique event and everyone was appreciative of his generosity.

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Ok, the tour continues and we come upon a long granite stone building without windows. Looking at the overall view, a large bridge we were on earlier connecting two gardens was on the roof of the building. We were told to put on plastic shoe coverings and no photos were allowed inside. Mr. Pin likes ancient bronze wine warmers which were used 3,500 years ago by the Chinese emperors. This museum was beautiful and each treasure, we were told is finer than those in public museums. They were in glass cases and beautifully lighted. There was a large auction, outside of China of 200 antique bronze items and Mr. Pin purchased over 150 items. It was breathtaking!

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Handcarved Chinese wooden bed, US$3,000,000

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Corner detail carving

Then we continued into another huge building were artisans were hand carving intricate rosewood furniture and other items. It was interesting to see them work before we were led into a showroom with finished pieces. The central masterpiece is a hand carved rosewood Chinese bed which is valued at US$3,000,000. No, we did not have beds like that in our rooms, but my bathroom is even larger than the one previously described, but only one TV.

We are not through yet as we passed another museum but did not visit as we were going into his “bonsai display” area. I was lagging behind, with two people helping me traverse hilly and dangerous areas. There was an electric cart which took Amy Liang and me to some areas avoiding the dangerous areas. I have already broken one foot in Japan and don’t want to add China to the list.

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Kobayashi makes a Treemendous house call!

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By the time I reached the garden, through a formal entrance gate I saw Mr. Kobayashi answering horticultural questions for the collection caretaker on a yellowing Japanese black pine bonsai, which was a water problem. Then, suddenly he dashed off to a large bonsai in pot and climbed to the top to inspect the yellowing and dying needles. He removed needles and consulted with Mr. Sudo on the disease problem which can be easily corrected. Around this garden were “normal” size bonsai and they were in proportion to this smaller area. The huge bonsai, which westerners thing are ridiculous are in proportion to where they are displayed. Proportion is important. China is a large country with large gardens so large bonsai are grown. While, Japan is a small country with small gardens and smaller size bonsai are grown and also displayed indoors, which is not a Chinese tradition.

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Directly outside my room as I write I can see hundreds of HUGE Arborvitae trunks which are being trained for bonsai by grafting juniper scions. The trunks must be at least three feet in diameter and each in an appropriate sized concrete pot. I was just watching a worker remove the binding tape and begin to wire the new shoots. Of course he was standing on the concrete rim of the pot in order to reach the new shoots. One worker then took me and Tonio Payeras from Spain across the road where we found another large field full of powerful huge Arborviate trunks. These trees however, were not in decorative concrete pots, just plain concrete. The trees were individually numbered and I remember seeing a tree numbered 523. I wonder if there are any of these tree still in nature or are they all here in this garden.

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After another dinner banquet we retired for the evening and began the forum the next morning.

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