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Scoop | Dunedin Chinese Garden celebrates 10th anniversary

Dunedin City Council

3 Sept 2018

Dunedin (Tuesday, 4 September 2018) – The southern hemisphere’s only authentic Chinese scholar’s garden celebrates a major milestone this month.

The 10th anniversary of the Dunedin Chinese Garden will be commemorated with a variety of events, including public talks and photographic exhibitions in Dunedin and Shanghai.

Mayor of Dunedin Dave Cull says, “The origins of this very special place are twofold. There was a desire to celebrate our city’s Chinese heritage and also to mark the important sister city relationship with Shanghai.

“Shanghai made a very generous contribution to the Garden, both financially and in terms of expertise in its design and construction.

“We are delighted that 10 years on, that relationship has grown from strength to strength. As well as an important symbol of that sister city bond, the Garden is enjoyed by thousands of visitors every year as a beautiful, tranquil place in which to spend time.”

The Dunedin Chinese Gardens Trust raised funds for and built the Garden, called Lan Yuan (its English name is A Garden of Distant Longing). The Garden was given to the Dunedin City Council to manage on behalf of the city. It opened to visitors in June 2008, but was officially opened in September 2008.

Dunedin Chinese Gardens Trust Chairman Malcolm Wong says, “With care, gardens only become better with age and 10 years marks an important milestone in Lan’s Yuan life. The Trust is grateful for the care and attention that has been afforded it by the staff and supporters. Lan Yuan’s sister garden, the prestigious Shanghai Yu Garden, continues to provide valuable assistance from across the seas.”

As part of the anniversary celebrations, a rare and valuable ceramic pagoda has been donated to the Garden.

Dunedin Chinese Gardens Trustee Associate Professor James Beattie, of Victoria University, says the pagoda is almost certainly the only one in New Zealand, possibly the only one in the southern hemisphere.

The pagoda was donated by Courtney Archer (1918-2002) and his long-time friend, Tan Chen, who lives in Rangiora.

Mr Archer worked in China on humanitarian causes from 1945 to 1952, first as a driver with the Friends’ Ambulance Unit and then later with prominent New Zealander Rewi Alley (1897-1987) at the Shandan Bailie School, Shandan, Gansu Province.

Prof Beattie says the gift symbolises the friendship between New Zealand and the People’s Republic of China. The pagoda most likely dates from the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). It was originally acquired in Beijing in the 1950s by Rewi Alley, then given to Mr Archer and reached New Zealand in 1966.

“It is a truly appropriate gift to a garden dedicated to fostering friendship between China and New Zealand from someone who dedicated his life to promoting understanding between the two countries.”

Commemorative events

An exhibition of photographs of the Dunedin Chinese Garden’s sister garden in Shanghai, Yu Yuan, will be on show at the Dunedin Garden from 15 September. A delegation from Yu Yuan will visit Dunedin for the exhibition opening.

A photographic exhibition of the Dunedin Garden will be displayed in Shanghai in November.

Marking the anniversary, Object. Affection: Dialogues with ancestors will open at Toitū Otago Settlers Museum on 22 September. This is a creative collaboration between renowned photographic historian King Tong Ho and members of the local Chinese community.

Throughout September, a series of scholar’s talks will be held on a diverse range of topics including the experience of 19th century Chinese settlers on the Central Otago goldfields, the role of Chinese markets and Cantonese people in driving ecological and social change in the Pacific, and Chinese animation as a window into understanding the past and present of Chinese visual culture.

Talks to commemorate the 10th anniversary are also being held in conjunction with Chinese Language Week (23 to 29 September) and then will continue over coming months.

The birthday celebrations coincide with Moon Festival events on 23 September. As part of the Festival celebrations, there will be a rabbit hunt, a poetry competition, puzzles, crafts, traditional games and a festival menu with moon cakes, buns and tea.

The Moon Festival is a lunar harvest festival with rituals that date back 3000 years. Traditionally, the Moon Festival is a time for family gatherings where entertainment, food and games are enjoyed together.

More details about the Garden’s birthday and festival events can be found at

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