History & Culture

The Portland Classical Chinese Garden began as a dream in the early 1980’s. It became more focused when Portland and Suzhou, China, became sister cities in 1988 and the idea of a building a Suzhou-style garden in Portland became a goal.

History of Scholar’s Gardens

The city of Suzhou is located approximately 50 miles west of Shanghai on the eastern coast of China. It was founded in 525 BC and is one of China’s oldest cities. It has a mild climate, similar to Portland’s. By 1,000 AD, it had become a thriving city with an economy based on trade. It was also a place for government officials to retire. These retiring Imperial court officials built housing compounds that featured beautiful gardens. These gardens attempted to duplicate nature found in traditional Chinese landscape paintings, and the nature of the nearby Yellow Mountains. The gardens would be used to entertain guests and undertake intellectual pursuits such as painting, poetry, and conversation. This Garden is based on a garden built in Suzhou during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD).


The Garden was built on land donated by Northwest Natural who had for 20 years used it as their parking lot. The groundbreaking ceremony was held in July 1999, and construction was completed in September 2000. The majority of the materials used in the construction of the Garden originated in China. Approximately 65 workmen from Suzhou created the structures and completed the work. An American construction company did the site preparation and foundation work. The Garden is in compliance with all current U.S. construction codes, and was completed at a total cost of approximately $12.8 million.


The majority of the plants in the Garden are indigenous to China; however, they were grown in the United States. Current import bans prevent plants from being brought directly from China. Prior to these recent bans, plants were brought from China to the U.S. and their offspring are what you will see today. Some plants are more than 100 years old and were transplanted from gardens and nurseries in Oregon.

Portland Classical Chinese Garden

NW 3rd & Everett Portland, OR 97209 503.228.8131 http://www.portlandchinesegardens.org/