By Bethany Shepard, Lillian Zheng 12:23 am PST

The spring cherry bloomsome trees framed the exquisite ancient wooden crafted pavilions, the stone bridge arched over the crystal green lake, the enchanting string music surrounded this Southern California oasis – the Garden of Flowing Fragrance, families of multiple generations enjoyed meandering around the garden to usher in the 2022 Lunar New Year at the Huntington Library. On February 5, 2022, The Huntington Library hosted its annual Lunar New Year festivities to welcome the year of the Tiger.

The Strategic Initiatives Director of the library, Ms. Sian Adams, stated, “We’re so proud to bring in people of all ages and all backgrounds to learn about Chinese culture and heritage today and celebrate this important holiday…This is our 13th year of this festival here at the Huntington. One of the things that we’re proudest of is that we are very much a space where people of all backgrounds and all cultures can come in. It is a place where we celebrate Chinese culture and heritage, but we do that with everybody, being inclusive.”

The celebrations took place in the Chinese Garden, Garden of Flowing Fragrance, and in various sites around the museum. The Huntington is home to the world’s largest Chinese Garden outside of China. They are proud of their community and the fact that they are able to bring individuals of all ages and backgrounds together to learn about Chinese culture. Each year, they hold a Lunar New Year festival, and, this year, they held it entirely outside due to Covid-19.

The celebrations took place in the Chinese Garden and in various sites around the museum. (Photo: © Lihua Zheng|The Middle Land)

This year, the organizer arranged Chinese opera performance, martial arts showcase, lion and dragon dance, calligraphy demonstrations by the local artist, and among other traditional activities.

The Garden of Flowing Fragrance, is called Liu Fang Yuan in Chinese, inspired by the gardens of Suzhou. Throughout the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), affluent academics and merchants created exquisite private gardens that included architecture, water features, rockeries, flora, and stone calligraphy.

All visible architectural elements for the garden—wood beams, roofing tiles, granite terraces, and paving pebbles—were procured in China and erected by Suzhou craftsmen. (Photo: © Arthur Wang|The Middle Land)

The Chinese garden’s graceful pavilions, walkways, and rockeries are the result of years of worldwide cooperation. In the early 2000s, designers in Suzhou created a master plan for the garden; American architects verified that it was seismically sound and wheelchair accessible. All visible architectural elements for the garden—wood beams, roofing tiles, granite terraces, and paving pebbles—were procured in China and erected by Suzhou craftsmen. According to Sian Adams, “Authenticity was at the heart of this project to get it right.”

Due to the frequent earthquakes in California, underneath their exquisite craftsmanship are concrete foundations and steel structures constructed by American construction workers. Steel beams are installed within each column, and then the wood is placed over them. When the buildings were being constructed, it was genuinely a multi-cultural event. The employees communicated in English, Spanish, and Mandarin.

Lion and dragon dance is the highlight of Lunar New Year celebration. (Photo: © Arthur Wang|The Middle Land)

Because the gardens are located in Southern California, they are accessible to people of many origins and cultures. It is a multigenerational establishment where families congregate and bring their children to learn about Chinese culture, listen to Chinese music, and to connect with their home culture. Sian Adams said, “We have families who walk in this garden each and every day of the week. That is what it means in their daily lives.”

They sold out early this year. Tickets are placed on sale a few weeks before the Lunar New Year, so plan to get yours early next year. To be notified of more intriguing events like these, sign up to their email list. If you missed this event, don’t worry. Sian Adams explained, “We also do other cultural festivals as well in the Chinese Garden.”