Huangshi Chinese Garden at Queens Gardens

An autumn tree with orange leaves within a white walled garden of rocks. The Huangshi Chinese Garden in Queens Garden was officially opened on 14 November 2007 with ten delegates from Nelson’s Friendly City, Huangshi, in the Hubei Province of China, in attendance.  Commissioned in 2001, the garden symbolises Nelson’s relationship with Huangshi. Learn more about Friendly City Huangshi in the Hubai Province of China.

At a powhiri in the Council Chambers that morning, Mayor Kerry Marshall accepted a $13,000 donation from Huangshi Municipal Peoples Congress towards completing the garden.

The design of the garden

The Garden features a walled, intimate space with windows in the wall filled with latticework patterns of camellias, peonies and butterflies.  The walls are plastered, whitewashed and capped with traditional clay tiles brought in from China. 

Water in a Chinese garden represents the ongoing fluidity of life, it should ‘flow freely as though it has no end’ and the garden pond in the Huangshi Garden flows from a waterfall into the pond around a concealed bend and out into the Queens Garden Pond.

A Chinese pavilion, or 'xie' with the distinctive upturned tile roof. The focal point of the garden is its pavilion, or ‘xie,’ with a distinctive, upturned tiled roof.  Weathered limestone rocks from Tarakohe in Golden Bay were used—the limestone closely resembles that found in traditional Chinese gardens. The roof of the xie was created with genuine Chinese roofing tiles direct from Hubei Province.  All of the garden details have been approved by friendly city Huangshi.

The garden was commissioned in December 2001 and construction plans have been in place for the previous three years.  Construction began in 2003 but was staged for funding reasons. 

True community support

The total cost of the garden, spread out over five years, has been $645,000, of which the Council contributed $540,000. The remainder of the funding came from a variety of organisations, including the Huangshi Municipal People’s Government, the Canterbury Community Trust, the Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust, the New Zealand Community Trust, and by the fundraising efforts of the Nelson branch of the New Zealand China Friendship Society (NZCFS), who first proposed the idea of the Chinese garden to Council. 

Other significant contributors include the Lion Foundation, Scottwood Group, the City of Nelson Civic Trust, and Pub Charity.

Purpose of Chinese gardens

The xie, or pavilion, amongst a pond, rocks, and trees. Chinese gardens have three purposes: as function, as art and as an ideal.  A garden ‘as function’ is intended to be the setting for a good life; an extension of the house and home, it is a place for recreation, vegetables and fruit, water, and domestic animals.

The garden ‘as art’ is intended to feature water flowing freely, walls that define and create spaces, winding walkways and footpaths that zigzag, plants abounding, and windows to give glimpses and entice people to look inside. Plants used throughout the garden include pine, bamboo, plum, and orchid.  The garden features flowers signifying the female presence, including peony for wealth and lotus for purity.

The garden ‘as an ideal’ signifies a theme and a literary expression of poetry and art.  The garden traditionally serves as a place for literati, scholars, and royalty.

Guardians at the gate

A fu dog statue. Two stunning Fu Dog statues grace either side of the entrance to the Chinese Gardens, thanks to Nancy Macy, a regular visitor to Nelson over the past 17 years. She donated the statues, carved from stone by Chinese carvers, to be placed in the entrance to the Gardens.

Fu Dogs are the ancient sacred dogs of Asia that guard Buddhist temples. They are commonly placed at business institutions, temple gates, home entrances, tombs, or in front of government buildings to scare off evil spirits.

They have the appearance of a lion, a sacred animal in Buddhism, who is the proud master of all cats. Fu Dogs can be traced back as early as the Han Dynasty, first appearing in Chinese art in approximately 208 BC.

The pair guarding the Chinese Gardens are a traditional male/female pair, with the male playing with a ball that symbolises the Earth and the female holds a cub and protects those who dwell inside.

The bridge linking two cities

Official opening

Mayor Aldo Miccio and His Excellency, Ambassador Xu Jianguo officially opened the “Rainbow Bridge” linking the Chinese Garden and the Queens Garden. Kaumatua Andy Joseph blessed the bridge which signifies the uniting friendship between Nelson and Huangshi.

Work started on the Chinese Garden in 2002. It has been meticulously planned and developed since then at a cost of $775,000, mostly from Council with generous donations from Chinese and New Zealand organisations. All of the garden details have been approved by our friendly city Huangshi.

The final embellishment to Huangshi Chinese Garden in Nelson’s Queens Gardens was the completion of an ornate arch bridge built to symbolise the linking of two cities.

The bridge’s magnolia motif wrought iron railing is in keeping with the Chinese design concepts that underpin the entire garden representing feminine sweetness and beauty. The bridge between the Chinese Garden and Queens Gardens will extend the general circulation and enjoyment of both gardens.

Where to find the garden

The main walled and roofed entrance of the Huangshi Chinese Garden is located off Tasman Street in Nelson.  The garden has been designed to enhance access by all visitors, including wheelchairs, albeit with a lumpy ride over the traditional pebble paving stones.

The site selected in Queens Gardens is well suited, with several trees of Chinese origin providing a shaded, quiet space.  The large 120 year old camphor laurel tree on the opposite side of Queens Gardens’ pond, coincidentally, is native to Hubei Province where it is the state tree.  It is used as a street and civic tree in Huangshi.

You can visit the Huangshi Chinese Gardens daily from 7am to 8pm.