Oriental Roots


I visited the Chinese Garden in Sydney this past weekend.

Nestled in the heart of the city, the garden is a symbol of friendship between the city of Sydney and the Guangdong province in southern China. The garden was constructed in 1988 to mark the bicentenary of Australia’s colonial settlement.

Designed and built by Chinese landscape architects in the southern style, also known as Ling-nam, the design evokes Taoist principles of Yin-Yang and the five opposite elements of earth, fire, water, metal and wood. The use of controlled and contrived natural forms creates a sense of wildness and serenity in its juxtaposition with the more severe and energy-sapping built environment of the city-scape beyond.



Although having a footprint of just one hectare, the space seems much larger, ranging over different harmonious elevations, including curved expanses of water, rocks, stone stairs, and pavilions perched on rocky knolls, with little arched bridges across carp filled ponds.

‘It is said that the rocks are the bones, the water is the blood and the soil and plants are the flesh of a garden.’

From a plaque in the Chinese Garden


Sharing a Chinese heritage, my friend and I took the opportunity to dress in the traditional Chinese custom. It must have appeared a little incongruous to other garden visitors because of our obviously Western appearance.

But for those few quiet moments we wandered the gardens imagining how it must have been for our Chinese ancestors, ignoring the possibility they may have been from lower classes and such salubrious surroundings not part of their life experience.

Nevertheless, I was transported back centuries, feeling the whisper of silk on my skin, the weight of my traditional head-dress. Would I have tottered along with bound feet in ancient clogs? Not if I were rural class.


Some Chinese visitors in costume enjoying the gardens. Notice the dragon-shaped rock in the background.

With the soft murmur of waterfalls in my ears, the occasional splash of a playful carp, and the wonderful textures of the rocks and plants to delight the senses, I was no longer in the city but transported back to my oriental roots. I had a deep and transcending feeling of serenity, of being one with the landscape, of ‘chi’ energy flowing around me. A clear sense was mine in that moment, of ‘the way’ that Taoism represents. The essential simplicity in nature that we all need in our lives.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
Lao Tzu


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Taoist belief is based on the idea that there is central or organizing principle of the Universe, a natural order or a “way of heaven”, Tao, that one can come to know by living in harmony with nature and hence with the cosmos and the Universe.

The philosophy of Tao signifies the fundamental or true nature of the world, it is the essential, unnameable process of the universe. Tao both precedes and encompasses the universe.’

‘The flow of ‘chi’ energy, as the essential energy of action, existence and active principle forming part of any living things, is compared and believed to be the influence that keeps the universal order of Tao balanced.’













39 responses to “Oriental Roots

  1. Such a beautiful space!!
    Love the connection of culture between two countries so far apart!!
    Your photos really provide great insight into the mood and atmosphere!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful experience to have Robyn. And your words evoke the sense of place and timelessness so well.
    Did you get a photo of you in traditional dress…? I was looking for it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. While nothing like this, where I used to live in London, nesting amongst the boring Victorian terraced houses, railway and nearby football stadium, was a small multi-level conservation area and park. Just a few moments from the house I was in a wonderful wild area and it was heavenly, so I know how you must have felt finding this little patch of heaven – that helped to connect you to your ancestors – in amongst the concrete and glass.

    Liked by 1 person

    • (Oops) . . . in Los Angeles — both parents working hard, trying to provide a living and future for 7 yr old twins — is take-out, often Chinese. I’ll tell her about your post, see if she can make a connection. This may give us something more to talk about . I’ve heard of tao, of course, but don’t know much. Thanks for the inspiration!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hello Albert, I was inspired to write today’s post on the Slow Movement because of the very life so many people live today – like your daughter-in-law. The pressures and expectations on them are huge. I lost my connection to the Chinese culture when my grandmother and great uncles died. But I am interested to indulge when given an opportunity like this one. Do look into Taoism. I’ve been an admirer of that philosophy for years. I will be over to visit you this weekend. (virtually).

        Liked by 2 people

      • When she was here, we gardened together. That is one thing Milanda really misses because she lives in a high rise in Xiamen.
        I send her photos and she loves to remember when she spent time in the gardens. I find Australian Gardens, particularly your little one, very intoxicating.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clare, what a lovely thing to do together. To share the wonder of growing things, especially with a child, because the notice so much, is very special. My grandchildren’s school has a vegetable garden with chickens and bees The produce the children grow is then harvested for them to cook in a specially fitted out kitchen. I’m glad you like my garden. It’s a mix of exotics and natives. A true native Australian garden is more subtle and needs more room to express its self.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clare I’m sure your school would have been equally nurturing. I was involved in the original garden construction at Lindesfarne Anglican School. Parents and grandparents gave their time and services to achieve it. I go to the garden classes which the children just love. We are also invited (and trained) to volunteer into the literacy program. It’s such fun.
        I’m glad you like my garden. Sometimes I think it’s a little too wild, but then, there’s really only me to please 😌

        Liked by 1 person

      • Schools like that encourage healthy relationships for the children lucky enough to attend. Getting relatives involved is crucial to this healthy atmosphere. I commend you and all of the adults whose efforts went in to making that garden come alive.
        There is no such thing as “too wild”. Wild is intoxicating. Gail is up and about, too and I have sent her a couple of messages. It is still quite dark here in Kingston.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s such a privilege to be involved, Clare. Early evening here but quite dark and chilly. I see it’s early morning where you are. How keen you are to get up before the sun.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sometimes it’s when I get my best work done. I like the early morning hours when it’s dark and quiet and the cats are cuddled up on the bed watching me write. Charley is sound asleep upstairs, so I am not keeping him awake and he will be well-rested to play golf today if the weather cooperates.

        Liked by 1 person

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