Butchart Gardens welcomes a dragon
China and the city of Suzhou have presented a dragon fountain to the Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC.
The gift was unveiled at a private ceremony on June 13 by gardens owner Robin Clarke and Sheng Lei, deputy mayor of Suzhou, on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the twin city relationship between Suzhou and Victoria.
Dignitaries on hand included BC Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon, and Liu Fei, consul general of the People’s Republic of China, who made opening remarks at the event. Officials and leaders from Suzhou, Victoria and the Chinese community in BC were also present.
Guichon said that
“China and Canada have a long-standing friendship that dates back to the very beginning of our recorded history in British Columbia, Canada’s doorway to Asia.”
“It’s such an appropriate place to gather together to celebrate that friendship, in one of British Columbia’s best known, longest-enduring and most successful destinations and a national historic site for Canada,” Guichon said.
Liu, one of the original proposers of the project to the Suzhou government, said “Butchart Gardens is the icon of Canada in China.”
“On the occasion of the CanadaChina People-to-People and Cultural Exchange Year, and to promote friendship and understanding between our two countries, we’d like to see more Chinese tourists come here to enjoy the lovely weather, lovely gardens and friendly local people,” Liu said.
Clarke said the dragon fountain will help commemorate the Chinese workers who helped her great-grandmother Jennie Butchart build the gardens in 1904.
“Every time we see this statue, not only will it be an enormous honour for those of us that are here, but we will truly remember all the people who came years ago to make us what we are now,” Clarke said as she unveiled the gift.
The Butchart Gardens is a popular destination for Chinese tourists and one of the sites visited by the first Chinese tour groups to come to Canada after it became a government approved destination in 2010.
Suzhou is a 2,500-year-old city in the Lower Yangtze River Basin renowned for its UNESCO World Heritage classical Chinese gardens built in the 11th to 19th centuries.
The city was twinned with Victoria in 1980 in order to promote cultural and economic exchange opportunities.
“Something as emblematic as the Chinese dragon is appropriate for celebrating this 35-year journey of friendship,” Sheng Lei, deputy mayor of Suzhou, told China Daily. “By making this dragon a permanent part of the Butchart Gardens, we hope to share the good fortunes and blessings represented by the Chinese dragon with the people of both cities.”
The fountain is the first Chinese style permanent installation at the Butchart Gardens. Cast by artisans in Suzhou, it depicts of a two-by-three metre, 2.7-tonne bronze dragon riding on frothy waves made of granite.
From left: Thomas Chan, president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association; Lisa Helps, mayor of Victoria; Sheng Lei, deputy mayor of Suzhou; Robin Clarke, owner of The Butchart Gardens; Judith Guichon, lieutenant-governor of BC; Liu Fei, consul general of China; Ryan Windsor, mayor of Central Saanich; and Dave Cowen, general manager of The Butchart Gardens; attend the unveiling ceremony of the Chinese dragon statue at the Butchart Gardens on June 13.