GUANZHOU: Orchids and Sharing Fragrances


Guanzhou was a new town essentially but hidden by a very busy ring road is the Orchid Garden.

The Guangzhou Orchid Garden was rebuilt from a botanical garden in 1957 and covers an area of 3.9 hectares. It is located near the western entrance to the Yuexiu Park and features more than 200 species of orchids. In addition to orchids, there are also over 300 species of other plants.

This garden claims to have 10,000 pots of the 200 varieties around the garden and certainly we saw a great many pots. Unfortunately,  Most of the pots were not yet in flower, but some were just coming into bud. It would seem that they would flower in December.  The garden was laid out with walkways and water inter-twining and many exotic trees.

There are three greenhouses that which house the varieties of orchids including cattleya, cybidium, dendrobium, oncidium, and vanda.

There were many Tea Houses (eg the Thatched Cottage, Time Cherishing Veranda, Bright Mirror Pavilion and the Hall of Sharing Fragrance Together) set on ponds and small rivers or streams. The Mingjing Pavilion is a reminder of the political past of the city. The inscription there was written by the Vice Mayor Lin Xi to imbue the value of self discipline in his party cadres.

Exotic trees too and bushes that at first seemed familiar but on closer look were not as they had very different flowers.

An old Muslim cemetery sits on the western edge of the park, supposedly the burial site of Abu Waqas, the uncle of the Prophet, who is credited with bringing Islam to China. The cemetery is closed to non-Muslims.

The Orchid Garden is divided into two areas, east and west. The eastern part holds the orchid sheds and the cultivation takes place in this area mainly. The collection consists of around 20000 orchids. The variety consists of Gold Mouth orchid, Silver Mouth orchid, Spun gold Horsetail orchid, Parrot orchid and song plum orchid.

Among the three sheds in the eastern region, the first and the third grow  Earth Growing Orchids varieties. The second shed cultivates more foreign varieties that are air grown.
The west houses the halls, pavilions, terraces and towers.

It was a lovely respite from the busy streets and even though you could hear the traffic at the end of the big lotus lake it didn’t detract.

Orchid Garden vistas

Orchid Garden vistas

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Guanzhou (town) is the fashion centre of China and there is a big exhibition hall just for this. There were many other exhibitions also going on in the town and two hotels -the Marriott and the Dang Fong hotel are close. In fact the latter hotel holds many exhibitions inside it and seems to link to the actual exhibitions halls. While we there a sound and cine exhibition was taking place and they even took out some of the furniture in some bedrooms on our floor to accommodate some of the small exhibitors and their sound systems.

The Dong Fang was built in the 1960s/70s as a very large square around a garden and heated swimming pool. Both the garden and the hotel lack empathy and feng shui… much too large with very long corridors and lots of bling. Bling is of course compulsory in all Chinese five star hotels it would seem.

Feng Shui would say that long straight lines are not good for the flow of qi and wealth will flow out without some curves or other protecting device such as a dog-leg; here there were long long corridors leading straight to exits and entrances.

Feng Shui is a Chinese system of geomancy or divination according to marks on the ground,  believed to use the laws of both Heaven (Chinese astronomy – see me being a Tiger for instance according to my year of birth) and Earth to help one improve life by receiving positive qi or energy and life –force or breath. Feng Shui says you should clear out clutter; reduce the glare of lighting – not have the biggest chandelier you can find; good qi comes from natural light, fresh air and plants – severe lack of these in the corridors and not much anywhere in the lobby either. I’ll write more about feng shui and Chinese astronomy another time.


There is an old Chinese /Buddhist temple just off the Beijing Road, dedicated to two generals. It is right by a shopping centre which has an archaeological excavation site in the basement and car park.  This an excavation of a 3rd century water gate. It is only open a few afternoons a week for viewing and not when I was there.

I had gone to the market in Beijing Street to buy silk dressing gowns but was told that they only sold them in the summer. Which makes sense of course. They were unfortunately selling these very padded pjs and dressing gowns as you can imagine, so clearly people wore lots to bed and relied on clothes to keep them warm in the biting cold.. Heating in these towns is often centrally controlled by the Council and not locally by the people themselves in their own houses. So the hours when they could have heating and at what temperature are decided centrally – no wonder they wore lots of padding to bed!

The central reservations in the roads were full of clipped bushes , often cloud pruned and there were lots of flowers around.

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