- About the China Garden
- History of the China Garden at the U.S. National Arboretum

About the China Garden

The U.S. National Arboretum is a U.S. Department of Agriculture research and education facility for ornamental trees, shrubs and floral plants. Encompassing 446 acres in northeast Washington, D.C., the Arboretum is a national center that welcomes visitors all year round.

The Arboretum is home to a series of world-class display gardens and collections, including Asian collections, azalea collections, the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, the National Herb Garden and the National Grove of State Trees. The next major addition will be the China Garden.

The China Garden at the U.S. National Arboretum is based primarily on gardens found in Yangzhou, China. These gardens blend the magnificence of the imperial gardens found in northern China with the statuesque grace of southern China’s private gardens.

The China Garden, situated on 12 lush acres in the heart of the U.S. National Arboretum, will display a delicate balance between natural objects and man-made structures and incorporates five key elements found in classical Chinese gardens:

  • Chinese scholars used rocks as art in their homes. Large and porous garden rocks are often considered to be among the most valuable in a classical Chinese garden. These ageless objects symbolize the dwellings of Taoist immortals. 
  • Water is considered to be the central component of a classical Chinese garden, serving as a balance for the other elements found in the garden. The best sites for classical Chinese gardens are on the edges of lakes with views of the mountains.
  • The arrangement of structures divides a classical Chinese garden into smaller sections with one or more scenic views. The buildings are designed to accent the garden with windows and doorways that frame scenic views in their courtyards and beyond. 
  • Certain plants are favored for classical Chinese gardens because of their association with overcoming the limitations of ordinary life. The pine, cypress, plum and bamboo are favorites because of their ability to grow in harsh weather conditions and rough terrain.
  • Garden design is considered to be an art form in China, but one will also find other art forms like calligraphy, painting, poetry, dance, flower arranging and viewing stones in a classical Chinese garden.



The China Garden at the U.S. National Arboretum is a joint effort. China’s Academy of Forestry will provide structures, rockery, furniture, art work and some plants, as well as skilled craftsmen to assemble the buildings. The United States has committed to providing the 12 acre site, all site preparation work, foundations for the structures, utilities, plants and long-term maintenance and operation.

In 2003, Madam Jiang Zehui, President of the Chinese Academy of Forestry, visited the U.S. National Arboretum to view the proposed site of the China Garden.  Madam Jiang and then Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Joseph Jen signed a Letter of Intent to establish a joint working group for the China Garden.

The following year, Chinese and American design teams held working sessions to discuss concepts and establish subcommittees. In October 2004, the Secretary of Agriculture and the Chinese Ambassador to the United States signed a formal agreement to cooperatively construct the China Garden at the U.S. National Arboretum.

Over the next year, American and Chinese design teams continued to finalize the design plans while site analyses were conducted. In January 2006, a formal site dedication for the China Garden was held at the U.S. National Arboretum. The Secretary of Agriculture, the Chinese Ambassador, and the President of the Chinese Academy of Forestry participated in the ceremonies.

In 2006 and 2007, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission approved the master plan for the China Garden. A year later, the new Farm Bill became law, giving the Secretary of Agriculture authorization to build the China Garden and raise funds for its construction and maintenance.

Now, with your generosity and support, we will build the finest classical Chinese garden in North America.

Last Updated  June 24, 2010 3:58 PM
URL = http://www.usna.usda.gov/ChinaGarden/About.html