Portland PCCG logo Classical Chinese Garden
NW 3rd and Everett, Portland, OR, 97208, 503-228-8131
Garden Plan Area

Courtyard of Tranquility

You are standing in the “Courtyard of Tranquility,” just outside the “Hall of the Brocade Clouds.” The significance of the hall will be discussed at stop 11. This courtyard is where guests would traditionally enter the garden. In the southeast corner is a large osmanthus tree. This tree blooms in November and is known for its very fragrant blossoms. It was donated by a family in southeast Portland and is over 100 years old. Looking up at the tile roof, you will notice that the ends of the tiles are marked with the Chinese characters which mean “double happiness.” Five bats surround them. Bats are prominent throughout the Garden. They symbolize “happiness” and “longevity.” The design of the five bats stands for the Five Blessings: long life, wealth, health, love of virtue, and natural death. Five is also an important number in the design of a Suzhou style garden because it denotes the five elements of a garden: architecture, plants, rocks, water, and poetry.

You will notice two large rocks in opposite corners of the courtyard. They are called Lake Tai Rocks. These limestone rocks were placed in Lake Tai, located near Suzhou to erode. The process takes many years. Traditionally, a father would drill holes in a large rock and place it in the lake so that the water would enhance the openings and crevices. His grandson would remove the stone many years later and incorporate it into the family garden. Lake Tai Rocks are larger at the top than at the base and more closely resemble clouds. The rough texture and perforations make them appear lighter than they are. The longer you look at them, the more you will see.

Standing in this courtyard, another aspect of a Suzhou style garden you will notice is that the view is different in every direction. Suzhou style gardens were built in urban areas where land was expensive. The challenge for garden designers was how to make a small space seem much larger. This is accomplished by placing architecture and plants in a manner that makes it difficult to see the entire garden. Most views are “obstructed” so that you see “layers” of plants and architecture creating the illusion that the space is much larger than it actually is. The entire garden was built on one square Portland block, or 40,000 square feet. At the ground level, there is no one place where it is possible to view the entire garden.

Under your feet, you will notice a beautiful rock mosaic. The stones were brought from China and hand placed by the Chinese workmen. A total of 500 tons of rock were brought from China and used in the garden. This pattern is called “crabapple blossom.” Our crabapple tree is located on the other side of the Hall. On the east side of the courtyard is a moongate. It is also in the pattern of the “crabapple blossom.”