scholars' rocksThree magnificent “scholars' rocks” from the historic Quinling Mountains in central China traveled across the world and arrived at the Arboretum in Chanhassen one snowy day last December

The scholars’ rocks at the Arboretum are a gift from the People's Republic of China, Shaanxi Province and University of Science & Technology and will be incorporated into  the Phase 2 construction of the new Chinese Garden.  The rocks weigh from 7,000 - 32,000 pounds and are a key element in the traditional design of a classic  Chinese gardens.  One of the rocks features calligraphy of a couplet carved into it.  The poetic inscription reads: 聚天地大美,蕴秦汉魂魄, which loosely translates into “Beauty of earth and sky united, Soul of Qinling Mountain forever dwelled.”

All who visit the Arboretum will be able to learn more about Chinese culture and traditions.  A plaque at the Chinese garden will be installed recognizing the story of these magnificent rocks from the Qinling mountains and the friendship with the Chinese people. 

Phase 2 construction is anticipated to begin in spring 2017.  Meanwhile, the scholars’ rocks are temporarily housed in a parking lot near Three Mile Drive.  When construction is completed, the rocks will be relocated to their permanent location, based on recommendations from a community advisory committee. 

Consul General HONG Lei, Chinese Consulate General in Chicago, sent a nice note to the Arboretum saying, “We very much appreciate your strong support for a good relations between Minnesota and China!  We will join hands with you!”


flower drumFor the first time ever, Park Square and Mu Performing Arts will join forces to co-produce the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Flower Drum Song.”  Based on the 2002 book adaptation by Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang (“M. Butterfly,” “Yellowface,” “Chinglish”), the production will be directed by Mu Artistic Director Randy Reyes.  Previously produced by Mu in 2009, this will be a fully reimagined production featuring new and familiar faces.  “Flower Drum Song” takes audiences to the vibrant world of San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1950s to Club Chop Suey, a nightclub owned by a Chinese-American family.  Old World tradition clashes with New World trends as two generations, father and son, struggle to honor and protect their cultural traditions while adapting to the changing times. 

Phase I of the Hsiao-Ho Chinese Garden Path is now complete and has been open to the public as of Sept. 22.  The path, stairs, and viewing platform are accessible.  Three large scholar stones were donated to this project from a university in China.  

Phase II should be completed spring 2017.  This will include a moongate, a path from the platform to the northwest end of the pond where a pavilion will be constructed.  A garden with a Tree Peony display along with complimenting plants will be in the area.  Phase 2 design planning is beginning for moon gate and contemplative pavilion.  Many architectural firms attended the information session for submitting designs that was coordinated by University of Minnesota capital construction.

As part of the community advisors for the Chinese Garden, artist/University of Minnesota instructor Hong Zhang has agreed to help with the artistic naming of the places and calligraphy, an essential part of any important Chinese Garden and artist Yudong Shen has agreed to assist with placement of some critical elements coming to the Garden.  Dr. Carol Brash, director of Asian studies at St. John's University, has also been assisting in the development of our garden.  She is currently writing a book on Chinese Gardens of North America.  

Liu Dan, born 1954, is one of China’s most renowned living artists, translating his fastidious observations of the world around him into ink through fresh ideas about composition and original brushstroke techniques.  This expansive selection of his recent paintings — meticulous and unexpected landscapes, rocks, and still-lifes — showcase both his technical virtuosity and unrestrained imagination.

Reimagining the Lystra Scene, 2016 - Ink On Paper - Collection of Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Uniquely classical yet refreshingly contemporary, Liu’s paintings blend his deep appreciation of the Western art canon with the 2,000-year-old heritage of Chinese painting.  Artistic traditions become a point of departure as Liu resists schematized brush techniques and stagnant notions of great art in favor of a new visual language all his own.  “Ink Unbound” captures Liu’s remarkable contributions to contemporary Chinese ink painting while also offering a contemplative experience for all viewers.  The exhibit will be on until Jan. 29, 2017, at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis.

By Michael Anthony | 09/16/16  This article by Michael Anthony was originally published in MINNPOST and is being reprinted with their permission


Photo by Cory Weaver  San Francisco Opera's production of "Dream of the Red Chamber."

Photo by Cory Weaver - San Francisco Opera's production of "Dream of the Red Chamber." 

“Who would have thought that this little group from Minnesota would have generated a major world premiere? It’s unbelievable.”

Kevin Smith, president of the Minnesota Orchestra, was speaking to 119 guests at a banquet last Friday, Sept. 9, in the suburban town of Millbrae just south of San Francisco. The banquet, during which an army of waiters delivered a seemingly limitless round of Chinese delicacies – deep-fried milk, sea cucumber, bird’s nest soup, Peking duck – was a prelude to the main event the next evening, the premiere of “The Dream of the Red Chamber,” an operatic treatment by the San Francisco Opera of one of the landmarks of Chinese literature with music by Bright Sheng and libretto by playwright David Henry Hwang.

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