With the rap of a gong and a few dancing, leaping dragons, Botanica’s new Chinese Garden of Friendship was officially dedicated Friday afternoon.
Between the foo dogs, traditional Chinese murals and tile artwork, Fuchang Liu said, the garden reminded him of home. The $2 million garden, which spans a third of an acre, is a tribute to Wichita’s sister city in China, Keifeng.
“It’s beautiful. Everything is just fantastic,” said Liu, who moved from China to the United States when he was in his 30s. “… I think it’s doing a lot of good things for spreading the influence of our city over the other parts of the world.”
Botanica hosted a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony Friday complete with tea, fortune cookies and a Chinese yo-yo exhibition. The dedication began with a handful of speakers, including Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell and Wichita Asian Association President Lily Wu.
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“This garden certainly furthers our understanding of our neighbors abroad,” Longwell said to an audience of more than 100 people. “… We look forward to many years of satisfaction and gratification of coming and enjoying these gardens.”
Visitors were treated to a performance by three dragons who interacted with the crowd and danced about the garden. People wandered across the Thousand-Foot Bridge – which represents Wichita’s friendship with Kaifeng – and sat near the Heavenly Sound Water, filled with young koi fish.
The “scholar garden” features several Chinese-inspired structures and symbols, including the 87-foot-long Fu Cang Long dragon, which snakes atop the Treasure Dragon Wall and along a flowing stream. Made up of 200 parts, the dragon holds a pearl in its mouth, symbolizing its guardianship of the most valued treasures buried on earth.
The Treasured Friend Pavilion is the highest point of the garden, which means it is closest to the gods and is a place of meditation and tranquility. Surrounding the pavilion is limestone from the Kansas Flint Hills.
A mural – Liu’s favorite part – is inlaid on the garden’s east wall. It is called “Along the River During the Qingming Festival,” and represents the daily life of people along the landscape of Bianjing, China (today’s Kaifeng).
The mural represents “the most prosperous time in China’s history,” said Liu, who is on the board of Sister Cities of Wichita. “I think at that time, the economy contributed about 80 percent of the world’s economy … and that picture reflects that time.”
The garden is designed to take visitors to another place, Botanica Director Marty Miller said.
“What impresses me most is the reaction of the people,” said Miller, who visited Kaifeng in 2012. “When they come out and say, ‘We just visited Asia, we felt the experience,’ that’s what’s most important. With all of this together, with all of the features … It’s the experience, and that’s what thrills me the most.”
Botanica organizers don’t plan to stop there. Miller said there are plans in the works to add two additional sister city gardens, one representing Mexico and the other representing France.
“It’s in our heads,” he said. “… We have developed a conceptual design for the Mexican garden, and we’ve had some conversation about the French garden.”
The Chinese Garden of Friendship will host “Eight Days of Wonder” to further celebrate the dedication, which will include Chinese arts and crafts, a lecture series and Chinese beer tasting, among other events that will last until Friday.
“This is not just a Botanica accomplishment,” Miller said. “This is a community accomplishment.”
If you go: “Eight Days of Wonder”
June 6: Chinese arts and crafts for children: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Included in admission.
June 7: Tai Chi & Tea: Grace Wu will give a lesson in tai chi in the Lotus Hall followed by tea from the Spice Merchant. 1:30 to 3 p.m. Included in admission.
June 8: Chinese painting tutorial: Paint the Towne will lead participants in painting a plum blossom; those 21 and older can bring libations. 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Free.
June 9: Tuesday on the Terrace: The weekly summer event on Botanica’s terrace will feature music by Uche and a Chinese meal; 5:30 to 8 p.m. $7 admission; dinner $8, plus drinks for sale.
June 10: Lunchtime art lecture: Artists Jennie Becker and Chiaw-Weai Loo will talk about their styles; 12:15 p.m. Included in admission; $8 lunch available from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
June 10: Sisters Cities Celebration: Chinese beer tasting, pingpong exhibition by the Wichita Table Tennis Association, learn more about Kaifeng and the Qingming scroll. 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Included in admission.
June 11: Family Game Night: Kids can play with giant lawn-game pieces starting at 5:30 p.m. Grace Wu will teach kung fu at 6:30 p.m., and “Karate Kid” will be shown at sunset. Admission $3 (free with membership).
June 12: Chinese tea tasting, koi kites and scarf-making crafts; 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; reservations required; call 316-264-0448, ext. 107. Free, except $10 to make a scarf.
For more information, call 316-264-0448 or go to botanica.org.