Friday, 27 February 2015

Jurong Gardens Park: Chinese Garden

The Chinese Garden (裕华园) is one of the 2 gardens that's part of the Jurong Gardens Park located in Jurong East.

The park is quite close to my place. I have no excuse not to go there, except that there're so many other places and events I want to go. So it has been put on the back-burner for the last 5 years. So why now? Why not?

I read somewhere that there're lantern displays in the Chinese Garden during the Mid-Autumn Festival. While I haven't yet come across similar tradition in Chinese Garden during CNY (Chinese New Year), I want to confirm it.

The Chinese Garden could be easily accessed with Chinese Garden MRT station.

Chinese Garden MRT, Singapore
A little Zen rock garden under the escalator of Chinese Garden MRT station

As soon as you got out the MRT, you see this path that leads you to the park. If you don't see this tree-lined narrow trail, you get out on the wrong side of MRT station.

Path connects MRT station to the Chinese Garden, Singapore
A path connects MRT station to the Chinese Garden.
You can see the 7-storey pagoda from MRT station.

I went there about 5:30pm to avoid the hot afternoon sun, and the best time for photography. The sun sets about 7:15pm ± 15 mins in Singapore.

Map of Chinese Garden, Singapore
Map of Chinese Garden at the entrance
(Click to enlarge)

Map of Chinese Garden, Singapore
You know the map is in safe hands because it's guarded by 2
fearsome security guards from Xian, China.
Replica of Xian entombed warrior
While I'm guarding the map, who's guarding me?

Unfortunately, the highlight - at least the highest profiled - of the garden, the 7-storey pagoda is wrapped in green mesh and scaffolding. Well, give me another reason to revisit.

Pagoda, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Work in progress

Next to the tall pagoda are the 8 statues of popular Chinese historical figures / national heroes.

One of the statue is Admiral Zheng He ("He" is pronounced like "Her", not "He". He was an eunuch. But that has nothing to do with the mis-pronunciations of "her" for "he". Or has it?). He's shading his eyes from the sun, peering into the distant ocean horizon. But the gesture can also be viewed as that he's doing a modern day naval salute. Again, it's ambivalent.

Hua Mulan statue, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Hua Mulan
The Hero(ine)
Hua Mulan statue, Chinese Garden, Singapore
My life was made into an animation by Walt Disney Pictures
with some supernatural elements added for children entertainment

Qu Yuan statue, Chinese Garden, Singapore
He's responsible for Chinese eating zhongzi (粽子)
on the Double Fifth Festival (Click to enlarge)
Guan Yu  statue, Chinese Garden, Singapore
He's responsible for the name of the halbert
he's holding (关刀)

The Chinese Garden's respectable distance from the city is both a blessing and a curse.

A curse because of its distance, it has very few visitors. At any given point in time and place, I had never seen more than 10 heads. The distance maybe a bad point, but its low crowd is surely a good thing if you want peace and quiet. And I assume people go to parks and gardens to seek solitude, peace and quiet from civilisation. So this isn't really a curse, but a blessing in disguise.

The blessing is that because of its distance from the city, it won't be turned into property development any time soon. This place is saved by being far from the city. Having said that, with Singapore public transport so convenient, this place isn't really far or expensive to get to. Also for this reason, its fate won't be so safe, not so much because of its property value, but the cost of maintaining it. It's hard to justify the maintenance cost if few people are using it. So this isn't really a blessing, but a curse in disguise.

Green toilet in Chinese Garden, Singapore
Green toilet with Chinese characteristic (as Chinese political analyst would like to say)

Having said all that, the fact that the pagoda is being maintained suggesting to me that this place is here to stay at least for the foreseeable future. This is a testimony to the Singapore government's commitment it made to the idea of "City in a Garden" (as supposed to "Garden in a City") by keeping as many green spaces (or lungs of the city) around this city-state as possible.

While I visited there, this place is being used mainly by joggers. It could just be because of that time of the day where sightseers had left and joggers arrived. I doubt this place is ever got too crowded. I'm not complaining, of course. I get the place all by myself, and my photos aren't spoiled by "people mountain people sea" (I want to photograph people, mountain and sea, but not people mountain people sea. Ok, occasionally, but not all the time. I want to shoot some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but I don't want to shoot all of the people all of the time. Honestly).

Jogger on Rainbow Bridge, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Jogger running on White Rainbow Bridge
Visitor, Chinese Garden, Singapore
The few visitors leaving the park

The Tea House Pavilion is a centrally located venue where people enjoy the view of the lake, and the Stone Boat across the lake.

Tea House Pavilion, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Tea House Pavilion
View of Stone Boat from Tea House Pavilion, Chinese Garden, Singapore
View of Stone Boat from Tea House Pavilion

Tea House Pavilion, Sunset over the lake, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Sunset over Tea House Pavilion

Visitor enjoy sunset view, Tea House Pavilion, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Young Thai tourists enjoying sunset over the lake at the Tea House Pavilion

Stone Boat, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Stone Boat

I've little doubt that this Stone Boat is inspired by the Marble Boat (石舫) in the Imperial Summer Palace (颐和园) in Beijing. It isn't a carbon copy as the pavilion design is quite different. The Pavilion in the Marble Boat is totally constructed of marble while this Stone Boat are made from mostly timber and other building material. The architecture of the pavilion is also different.

Stone Boat, Chinese Garden, Singapore

The White Rainbow Bridge (白虹桥) is another architecture that's modeled after the 17-Arch Bridge (十七拱桥) over the Kuming Lake in the Imperial Summer Palace. I haven't counted them, but I do believe there're fewer than 17 arches in the White Rainbow Bridge. Also, the arches in this bridge are also slightly more pointed, making them looking more like European Gothic arches than the typical Chinese round arches.

White Rainbow Bridge, Chinese Garden, Singapore
White Rainbow Bridge

I've an affinity for sundial (maybe I was a sundial in my previous re-incarnation. Just an educated guess). Whenever I saw a sundial, I would surely share them in my blog, like the ones I saw in Beijing Ancient Observatory and Kings Park in Perth.

If there's a country where the use of sundial is suitable, it would be Singapore. Not so much because it's very sunny (no, most countries in the world are sunnier), but because it's so close to the equator, meaning there's no season. In other words, it needs no correction (since Singapore's latitude is 1.3°N, not 0°, so there's a slight error if no seasonal correction is applied).

Timestamp on this photo is 6:46pm while the sundial marked 6:15. (Click to enlarge)
This is about 30 mins error. Much larger than I expect.
Next time I'm here, I'll compare the difference in error. I suspect 30 mins error is maximum.

Confucius gets a place on his own outside the 8 Heroes memorial.

Twin Pagodas, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Twin Pagodas

Xuan Wu or Black Warrior, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Xuan Wu, Black Turtle or Black Warrior
Next to the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum (LTTM) is a little stream with Shallow Jade Bridge (浅玉桥) over it. In the stream you will see the sculpture of large tortoise with a snake and tiny tortoises on its back.

Shallow Jade Bridge
According to Taoist legend, this snake and turtle is associated with the northern god Xuan Wu (玄武, or Genbu in Japanese, Hyeonmu in Korean or Huyền Vũ in Vietnamese). In Journey to the West, he's a king of the north, and has a Snake and Turtle generals served under him.

Another legend is that the ancient Chinese wrongly believed that there were only female tortoises and no male tortoise, and so the only way to have tortoise off-springs is to mate with a snake. I think the little tortoises on the giant tortoise's back where the snake lovingly caresses is suggesting this particular legend. Parents pose for a family portrait with their kids huddle between them. The 2 tiny tortoises are snuggled between the snake and the large mother tortoise.

There're many many stories and legends floating around about the turtle and the snake. I'm just scratching the surface of it.

By the time I arrived, LTTM had already closed or was was about to close.

Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum, Chinese Garden, Singapore
LTTM promotional poster
(Click to enlarge)

Entrance to Fishes' Paradise, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Entrance to Fishes' Paradise (and then LTTM)

Koi carp pond in Fishes' Paradise, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Koi carp pond in Fishes' Paradise

I was somewhat disappointed because there was no lanterns on the lake to be seen. But I certainly didn't regret one bit to have visited this place, and quite enjoyed the photo taking and tranquil stroll (jogging with the camera will lead people to think that there was breaking-news occurred in the garden). Especially being so close to my place and admission is free.

I had covered about 70% of the ground in about 1.5 hours. I guess one can comfortably see the whole of Chinese Garden in 2.5 hours (excluding the LTTM). I will certain come back to see the rest of the Chinese Garden (perhaps including LTTM), and the Japanese Garden, as well as Jurong Lake Park located opposite to the 2 Gardens. I'm looking forwards to these visits. To save time, and kill 2 birds with 1 stone, I'll probably come here during the Mid-Autumn Festival to see lantern display, if any.

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