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Renewed push for Chinese garden in Adelaide parklands

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There is a renewed push for the construction of a traditional Chinese garden in Adelaide’s parklands.

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Advocates have chosen 2016 as an auspicious year to renew a decade-old push to construct a large, traditional Chinese garden in Adelaide’s parklands.

Council, academic and philanthropic advocates believe the time is right for a renewed push, with 2016 the 15th anniversary of Adelaide’s sister city relationship with Qingdao, the 30th anniversary of its sister province relationship with Shandong, and 10 years since the Adelaide City Council last seriously investigated a Chinese garden for the parklands.

This morning, the State Government welcomed Chinese trade delegates to the city, where they will experience Fringe events including the Royal Croquet Club.

Executive officer of the University of Adelaide’s Confucius Institute Aaron Duff has made a submission to the draft Adelaide Parklands Management strategy, calling on the Adelaide City Council to consider a traditional Chinese garden for the south parklands.

Duff said that constructing a traditional Chinese garden in the heart of the city would demonstrate to Chinese investors and governments that “that we’re not only interested in their money”.

“It can be hard for [Chinese investors] to think we want more than just their money,” he said.

He said that China’s image in Australia was often associated with business interests, and that building a Chinese garden in the city would show that South Australians wanted to learn more about Chinese culture, and its people.

He said the garden would also provide “a point of difference” for Adelaide as it competes with other Australian cities to attract Chinese students.

“In the case of Sydney, their Chinese garden is now one of the biggest tourist attractions,” Duff said, noting that the garden had been listed as one of the top “things to do” in Sydney on travel advice website Tripadvisor.

“In my mind, the southern parklands seem to be an area where it would fit in quite well,” he said.

Duff said most traditional Chinese gardens included running water, meandering pathways, multiple levels and a pagoda at the highest point.

He said the south parklands would be ideal for a traditional Chinese garden because the water and the multiple levels were already there.

“I’d like the Chinese garden to be big enough hold reasonable-sized events there [and] to be a meeting place,” he said.

“We could have a group of people [practising] Tai Chi, musical performances, or tea [gatherings].”

The said the Confucius Institute would be interested in contributing financially to building the garden.

However, the Institute would have to be a “minor” contributor.

He said he hoped some of the State Government’s $20 million parklands fund, promised at the last state election – some of which may go towards a new upgrade of Victoria Square – may be used to construct the garden.

Susan Lee, now co-president of the annual Asia in SA charity dinner, spearheaded the push for a Chinese garden in the parklands in 2006, during the tenure of then Lord Mayor Michael Harbison.

She told InDaily that she was interested in supporting the renewed push, and that a garden could host Chinese chess games, group exercise, musical performances and community gatherings.

In late January, South Ward city councillor Priscilla Corbell asked for a report from the council’s administration regarding the possibility of a Chinese rose garden being built in Veale Gardens (which are in the south parklands).

Corbell is also employed at the Confucius Institute, and told InDaily this morning she had been advised that she can no-longer champion the idea of a traditional Chinese garden in the south parklands, because it may be viewed as a conflict of interest.

The south parklands already host a traditional Japanese garden.

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