Vancouver’s large Asian population helps give the city a palpably cosmopolitan atmosphere, and two of my favorite spaces are traditional Chinese and Japanese gardens.
The more famous of the two, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, lies in the middle of Chinatown within walking distance of my recommended hotels. The first 15th-century Ming-style garden outside China, this complex encompasses paths, ponds and manicured greenery set among the halls of a courtyard mansion. Chinese craftsmen built the “scholar’s residence” in 1986 in a traditional manner without nails or screws; the space feels tranquil and timeless. Guided tours illuminate the rich symbolism of the garden and depart four to eight times daily, depending on the season.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
578 Carrall Street. Tel. (604) 662-3207
After visiting the excellent Museum of Anthropology on the University of British Columbia’s campus, be sure to walk five minutes to the Nitobe Memorial Garden. This one-hectare traditional Zen garden honors Dr. Inaz Nitobe, a diplomat who criticized Japanese militarism in the 1930s. Bridges, stone lanterns and waterfalls surround a central pond overlooked by a tea house and a small pagoda. Much of the vegetation — including red cedars and western hemlocks — is native to the region, and almost every view within the garden appears to have been carefully composed. Again, symbolism suffuses the space.
Nitobe Memorial Garden
1895 Lower Mall. Tel. (604) 822-6038