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Year of the Awakening Garden

Portland's Lan Su Chinese Garden marks the new year in red envelope style
by: L.E. BASKOW, The Chinese New Year celebrations begin on Feb. 14 at the Lan Su Chinese Garden (above) in Old Town and include a dragon dance procession, red paper lantern making and tai chi classes. The festivities also mark the beginning of the year-long celebration of Lan Su Chinese Garden's 10th anniversary.

The Chinese New Year is a time of celebration and rebirth, symbolized by the initial giving of a red envelope for good luck - among Chinese families, it often includes money.

So, the Lan Su Chinese Garden, at Northwest Third Avenue and Everett Street, has big things planned for the Chinese New Year from Feb. 14 to 28, and really all year as the newly named garden celebrates its 10th anniversary. Visitors to the garden each day get a red envelope with a token gift inside.

'Chinese New Year is a little like Christmas here, a time to spend with family,' says Claire Hung, who was born in Taiwan and serves as the garden's visitor experience coordinator.

The Chinese New Year is based on the lunar year. This year, it's the 'Year of the Tiger.'

The holiday in the People's Republic of China and Taiwan is marked by time away from school and with families, games of mahjong, lots of eating and visiting, the enjoyment of flowers such as plum blossoms, everything red and the lighting of firecrackers to scare 'Nian,' the feared beast of Chinese lore.

COURTESY OF LAN SU CHINESE GARDEN

COURTESY OF LAN SU CHINESE GARDEN • The Chinese New Year celebrations begin on Feb. 14 at the Lan Su Chinese Garden and include a dragon dance procession (above) and tai chi classes.

Several events are planned at the Lan Su Chinese Garden for Chinese New Year - the famous lion dances (four times each weekend day), storytelling, tai chi demonstrations, feng shui lectures. But, it'll only be a start for the garden, which plans activities nearly every month to commemorate its 10 years here. The list of events:

Chinese New Year, Feb. 14-28; Festival of Fragrance, March 19-26; Tiger Time Spring Break, March 20-28; Colorful Kites of China, April 1-30; Passion for Peonies, May 8-31; Landscapes in Miniature, June 18-24; Tuesdays by Twilights, July 6-Aug. 10; Festival of the Scholars' Arts, Aug. 1-31; Mooncakes and Pomegranates, Sept. 1; 10th Anniversary Gala, Sept. 16; Festival of Earth, Oct. 14-31; Garden Inspiration Art Show, Nov. 1-30; Chrysanthemum Exhibit, Nov. 2-7.

Staten Island, N.Y., Vancouver, British Columbia, and San Marino, Calif., also have Chinese gardens, but Portland officials boost of having the most authentic and 'the most involved in culture education,' says Executive Director Cynthia Haruyama.

Portland's garden is based on what you would find in the sister city Suzhou during the Ming dynasty of the 14th to 17th centuries. Gardens were actually for the well-to-do of the Ming dynasty, where families spent their recreation time among their treasures, paintings, scrolls, porcelains and jade, as well as with musical instruments and chess boards.

'It feels like you're in China,' says Jane DeMarco, the garden's marketing manager.

The land and buildings are owned by the city, the garden operated by a nonprofit agency. The name was recently changed to match its given name of 'Lan Su Yuan' - or 'Awakening Orchid' - the 'Lan' from Portland, the 'Su' from Suzhou and 'Yuan' meaning garden.

'It embraces the Chinese identity,' DeMarco says.