Potted Landscape Appreciation
The air was moist because of the rain in the morning of a weekday. Once you stepped away from the busy streets and into the park, the hustle and bustle seemed to have vanished without any trace.
A Morning just After the Rain
Even on this rainy morning of a weekday, there were still many people in the park.
Parents with strollers and their babies came here for the fresh air. Several senior ladies just finished their dance practice for the day. The organizers were discussing the schedule for the next day whilst the others tidying up their props. People coming here for exercises had their own spots, practicing Tai Chi without interfering anyone around and without any music. A couple of them smiled at each other after a few rounds of Tai Chi push-hands. An old man came in with his camera seeking a better position for photograph. He said to me with a smile that there was unique scenery on rainy days. Planning the reunion, the aged retired soldier was calling at the center of the square, saying "yes, I'm right here and you will see me when you come in (the park). The others are already here. Hurry up."
Situated in the west of Chengdu, the park was formerly Chengdu Zoo. Since 1982, it has been changed into park with various functions. The park took the name Baihuatan from the verse in one of Du Fu's poems Mad Man – My thatched cottage stands just west of Thousand Mile (Wanli) Bridge, this Hundred Flower Stream (Baihuatan) would please a hermit fisherman.
Entering the main entrance from Qintai Road, you will see the Canglang Bridge with antique style. It is exquisite that the embossment of the stone bridge matches the flowing water under the bridge, the antique-style-imitating construction leading tourists into the other view of the world. Wondering in the park, you can see the integration of the cobbled path and the plants with their green covering the sky. In the park, there is a sky-reaching ginkgo tree catching people's eyes. Transplanted from Shenyin Temple in Wenchuan, the tree has been living 1,300 years since Tang Dynasty. With the weather-beaten signs on the trunk, the tree may have experienced burning and lightning stroke; yet, the tree is full of vigor under the staff's care, bearing fruit every autumn.
The Mini Landscape
In the park, there are three Sichuan-styled potted landscape gardens - Xiyuan, Lanyuan and Baihuayuan which are all traditional Chinese courtyards. In the middle of them stood two or three visitors appreciating the beauty of the gardens.
As one of traditional Chinese arts, potted landscape consisting of plants and stones shows miniature natural scenery. There are two major classifications of potted landscape: tree and landscape. Dating from Sui or Tang Dynasties, the Sichuan-style potted landscape had the strong character. Diospyros cathayensis, Podocarpus macrophyllus, Serissa japonica are the essential elements of the Sichuan-styled to show the rich forms and the antique style; whereas the sand rubble and turtle stone are the materials of the potted landscape of mountains and waters to show the magnificent and the steep in the nature.
"In Xiyuan, there are more than 300 works including the typical ones of Sichuan-styled," introduced Liugang, the deputy director of the park and the advanced landscape engineer, "since Qing Dynasty (1636-1912), the Sichuan-styled gradually evolved from one to ten techniques, some of them have been lost; however, we have the works with six to seven techniques; the natural style is the key feature of Sichuan-style potted landscape."
The 22th Potted Landscape Exhibition in Chengdu has been officially opened in Baihuatan Park in September, until on 7th October; Tianfu Hibiscus Festival will end on 28th October. "Nowadays, the potted landscape is luxury no more, so everybody is able to appreciate it, "said Liugang who enthusiastically invited tourists to come to the exhibition, "maintaining the potted landscape is also as easy as keeping succulent plant and you can make it yourself if you are interested."
Address: NO. 175, Xiyi Section, First Ring Road, Chengdu
Opening hours: 06:30-21:30 (winter) 06:00-22:00（summer）
Baihuayuan is closed for maintenance on Monday and Tuesday; Xiyuan is closed for maintenance on Wednesday and Thursday
Photos by Maite Zeng
Excerpted from HELLO Chengdu October Issue in 2018