The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden was first conceived in 1984. After years of careful study, deliberation, and relationship cultivation, the NYCSG construction began in April of 1997. The Staten Island Botanical Garden collaborated with many partners; including, the National Endowment for the Arts, local foundations, the State and City of New York, individual and corporate donors, and the Chinese community to turn this idea into a reality.
Since the garden was to be modeled after a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) scholar’s garden in Suzhou, it was only appropriate that The Staten Island Botanical Garden worked with the Suzhou branch of the Landscape Architecture Company of China. The Chief Project Designer was Mr. Zou Gongwu, who has been acknowledged as a leading scholar in classic garden design.
The designs, architectural details, and landscape choices of Mr. Zou Gongwu are reminiscent of the Lingering Garden (Liu Yuan) located in Suzhou. However, the NYCSG also contains elements seen in most Chinese Scholar’s Gardens.
The classical Chinese Scholar’s Garden reflects the harmony and balance of the yin and yang through the use of four elements: rocks, water, plantings, and architecture.
Rocks are often referred to as the “bones of the earth” in Chinese literature and poetry. The rocks placed in the NYCSG may represent a mountain, potentially a sacred mountain.
All of the plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers were carefully selected either because of their color, shape, or seasonal attributes. All year round, there are plants blooming in the NYCSG, allowing the garden to maintain its relevance season to season.
The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden was built using traditional Chinese construction techniques. In addition, all of the architectural elements reflect the classical Ming period in Chinese architecture.