US to get China garden — at last

Updated: 2016-06-24 15:17

By HUA SHENGDUN in Washington(China Daily USA)

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US to get China garden — at last

A display map of the China Garden, situated on 12 lush acres in the heart of the US National Arboretum in Washington. Based on an original design from a team of Chinese designers, the China Garden, offers an extraordinary opportunity to build a lasting tribute to US-China relations in the capital. Provided to China Daily

The National China Garden Project dates back to when Madam Jiang Zehui of the Chinese Academy of Forestry and leading members of China’s State Forestry Administration first proposed putting a traditional Chinese garden at the US National Arboretum.

After thirteen long years, the project is finally set to begin construction in October.

“The ultimate goal is to have a Chinese cultural program here so that the American public can come and enjoy and understand Chinese culture better,” said Samuel Mok, president of the National China Garden Foundation (NCGF). “Through that, we can promote better understanding between the two peoples and enhance the relationship between the two countries.”

Mok gave China Daily an exclusive interview on the progress of the National China Garden Project and the philosophy behind the ambitious undertaking.

The National China Garden will be the first federally supported Chinese garden in the US, and the largest China garden in North America. It will be situated on a plot of twelve acres in the US National Arboretum in Washington as a tribute to US-China relations.

It was designed with the goal of creating a quintessential Chinese garden in the style of the Ming and Qing dynasties. It will feature classic elements including a lake surrounded by rockeries, pagodas and pavilions displaying Chinese art and calligraphy.

USDA regulations discourage overt advertising for projects on federal lands, according to Mok.

US to get China garden — at last

This lack of exposure among the general public has led to a slower fundraising process, Mok said.

“At least 50 percent of the funding has been resolved, but we still have a way to go. Construction costs are covered. But we have to create a fund so that we can maintain the garden.”

According to a press release from the US State Department in 2011, China is to provide some 22 structures, classical Chinese art and furnishings, as well as the landscaping and rockeries, while the United States will provide site preparation and maintain the completed Garden.

According to the China Garden website, NCGF was organized to ensure the financial resources, development, execution, operation, usage and public appreciation of the National China Garden. NCGF also supports and cooperates with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and with the People’s Republic of China State Forestry Administration.

When all is said and done, Mok estimates the National China Garden project will have a cost of more than $60 million, with most of the funds raised through the foundations’ grassroots support campaign consisting of several hundred individuals and corporate donors.

As a project originating from an agreement between the US Department of Agriculture and the Chinese Ministry of Forestry, it is largely up to the US and Chinese governments to support this project, if not through funding, at least through moral support.

“We have a few events planned, and we would like to see senior officials from both governments in attendance. That would be the best support they could give to us, meaning ‘this is our project, let’s work together.’ The fact that they show up and show support means more than anything else,” said Mok.

Once the construction phase is completed in two to three years, Mok hopes that Americans from all walks of life, not just Chinese-Americans, will come to appreciate the beauty of the site.

“It will have a very significant role and impact with the DC community,” said Mok. “For community-based activities, there are a lot of things you can do. We haven’t thought out all the possible programs yet, but I can see a whole list of potential specialized programs for senior citizens. The Garden is for everyone, including senior citizens.”

Mok, who has been president of NCGF since January and has served as treasurer since 2012, has dedicated most of his professional career engaged in efforts that promote better relationships between the people of the USA and China. Under his leadership, he hopes the National China Garden will become an enduring symbol of goodwill between China and the US, and offer a unique platform for strong US-China relations, people to people exchanges and the celebration of Chinese culture.

“It does not cost me anything but I am willing to make contributions in various ways to help with the garden project, because I really believe this is an important project, and a good project,” said Mok.

Allan Fong in Washington contributed to the story