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Places of Interest

The Garden of Serenity
The Symbolism of the Chinese Garden

The Main Elements of the Chinese Garden

As from ancient times the Chinese Garden has always provided a symbolism of a world which outcomes that which can be seen or which is needed and also which gathers in itself a wide reflection of thoughts and choices. The Chinese Garden provides the right setting for the citizen to roam freely within his inner thoughts. The person who is able to mimic himself with nature gains both mental health and a long life.

As from the past three hundred years till today the Chinese Garden has been set up on three principles. First, the garden had to agree with the local environment, have a natural aspect rather than artificially made, thus be more spontaneous rather than symmetrical and elaborated, offering more surprises than simplicity. Secondly, the Garden had to reflect a world of its own, complete in thought, microcosmic. All the phases of nature are there for the service of human thoughts. The Garden contains the basic elements of the world, the jang and the jin, shown through an intricate woven net or better still a lace of rocks and water, combined together in the limited space provided, though with a consistent architecture and splendid aesthetics.

Thirdly, due to its limited area, the Chinese Garden had to occupy space accordingly to provide the suggested choice. One cannot see everything at a glance, however from every part of the garden, one becomes aware that there are other things yet to be seen. The continuous change of elements used, also suggest an infinite variety of experiences.

The two main important elements in the Chinese Garden are the rocks and the water. Their combination forms both the architecture and horticulture. Rocks and water symbolise all that forms part of the basis of nature, the jang and the jin, all that which gives life. Rocks are the body of the world, with its hills and valleys like arteries for blood. The water is the spirit of the world, that which provides oxygen, breath, the liquid clouds, blood running through the veins. The rocks symbolise all that which is active, the work, the forces of work; the water, all that is contemplated, all that compliments with work, thought, freedom, silence, reflection in one word Serenity.

From Birth to Maturity

The "Serenity Garden" in Santa Luðija therefore is a symbol of life, the entire life from birth to death. The fountain at the very beginning of the garden is the figure of birth, with the water in the background symbolising the mother, the water as if giving birth, the happiness of a new life. The beginning of childhood.

Childhood is indeed represented by the space found between the fountain and the actual garden door, the door to maturity. Like in life, one finds two paths, one is straight with no problems, no difficulties, serene, under the guidance of parents while the other is a serpentine path, full of adventure, danger, curving and away from the parents’ sight. The parents are moulded in the figures of the two lions, one male with masculine look, gathering in himself the strength of the father he is. The other a woman, feminine, with her happiness in her hands, a tender look, a promise of love and joy.

From childhood one passes to maturity. This threshold which everyone in life has to go through, offers a welcome through a large "portico" which offers shelter until one is inside. Once inside, one starts his lookout for the wonders of life ‘WU’ as found written of the inside of the door. Here the rocks seem to have matured and it offer themselves as an emporium of wisdom and energy for life. The rocks are placed in a way so as to resemble the image of a god, as if on an altar surrounded by plants and flowers. The inscription behind the rocks says "the pleasure of heaven". It is here that the choices of life begin. On the right there is a small door which gives you a special welcome thanks to its elevated patio which is meant to invite you for a day of labour after wishing you a good morning. It is from here that you find yourself in the corridors of an active life - the sunrise of a new life.

Active life

The corridor is in a zig zag form to remind us that active life is full of windings and difficulties. Even the bridge has in zig zag form. Many times in life we are forced to cross a bridge in order to overcome difficulties. As if to remind us that we are not on our own, to face this active life, the corridor is covered with the symbol of comfort found in those which have chosen a life status like ours.

However the Chinese Garden provides a choice of experiences. For this reason, on the other side we come across a round door in the form of a moon and inscribed on it there are the words "The path to retreat" a spiritual retreat - away from the crowd. This pathway is that which holds the freedom of mind, not hidden thoughts found in dark corner but those thoughts set on the observation of the living nature, on the sweet music of all sounds of nature, on the rainbow of colours provided by nature, and why not, on the reflections of the active life. So as we create the space for all this variety of thoughts no Chinese Garden is structured as one garden. Every garden is in reality many gardens, spaced between one thought and another by walls, sheltered corridors and a chain of rooms, everything linked and in sequence in order to produce a series of different and opposite thoughts. Little by little the garden passes on a sense of continuity, one thing after the other, with no end.

Contemplative life
Contemplative life starts in the Bamboo Garden. The Bamboo reeds, create an enchanting sound in the sweet breeze and their tender leaves cast reflections and an infinite amount of shadows, as they perform their dance to the same breeze. The lace like design of each window varies from one to the other. This compliments with the idea of an infinite variety of thoughts found in the garden. From here one can only take a glimpse of the pond and distinguish the sound of the water fall, as it hits the rocks and continue on its way to feed the pond.

This combination of water and rocks that leaks from the ceiling of the cave can be more profoundly distinguished in the stalagmites and stalactites found in a cave (the furniture of the hermit).

On the back side of the moon door are inscribed the words "The green grass hides" - as if the grass is playing hide and seek behind the moon or else the grass is crying the spreads of land of active life left behind.

Right in the middle of this section we find a flower shaped door upon which a sort of notice reads "the broadcasting of the sweet smells" inviting you to enter this small garden for a more deep personal reflection. From this sweet garden one can reflect on the shadows cast here and there with amply space between them in the Bamboo Garden, or else just listen to the miscellaneous sounds produced by active life, like the sound of jingles. One can also wish in the depth of his heart for more grace and sweetness in his behaviour and appearance. This wish becomes granted when you enter the room with water flowing underneath it and with a balcony overlooking the pool. This room is called ‘ The room with the pleasure of splashing. Here silence dominates the area, the only sound being that of poetry written by the pillars: "Amidst the swaying reeds and the humming of the Znuber there is an overflow of grace and sweetness, such that, in the moonlight and the sweet breeze of the night, the shadows of the bridge and pavilion remain still. From here you go out into a corridor which leads to the square pavilion known as "the waiting for the moon". Here we are fed with the words of yet another poem. "The clouds fly higher and the moon shines in a much brighter pool". At the end of the railing of the balcony there is a small lion with a smile on his face as if inviting you to enchant with the wonders of nature and thought.

On the other side of the pool, in the centre of the corridor of active life, there is another pavilion, this time with six corners. As if in contrast to the other pavilion with four corners, ‘the clouds linger’ as if reluctant to move. Even in active life there are moments of reflections. Here we evaluate the past and plan for a better future. For this reason we again come across yet another family of colourful stalagmites which motivate us to aim for fuller evolution. In the pool there are two small islands to remind us that in the world there is space enough even for those who like to be alone. Amongst these people there are whom remains passive and their thoughts lead to nowhere and those who recognises truth and theirs thoughts blossom and offer comfort.

The Community
Active life leads straight ahead to participation in the community, whilst contemplative life represents an uneven road that leads us into full participation within the community. This road is made up of a row of stones in a pond which serves as stepping stones by which, with great sacrifice, one makes his way to join the community. At the end of the road there is a water fall from which a gurgle or water feeds the pool. This is the fruit of the unity in the community, the life of every member, of every individual no matter what state of life he chose to live. All this is represented in the big hall - a panoramic hall - from here the scene shows as far as the eye can see or as far as the eye can see or as far as thoughts can reach. This room is known as "Hall filled with pure rhythm, as white as snow". This means that communication, dialogue and unity purifies the soul and are lead to peace, serenity and wealth. This hall with a portico on each side, welcomes everybody. On the outside there is a bat with his head coming out from one side and his tail from the other. This is a symbol of joy and serenity which results from unity. On a side there is a coin which represents the wealth which is generated by the unity and on the other side there is a pear which means a long happy life.

The poem on the outside pillars which leads to the terrace on the pond reads "Around the outside door the plane is full of flowers which spreads sweet smells, away from the walls of the city. The hills spread the pastures in the distance.

This means that no community stands on its own and therefore the wealth which emerges from it is shared with nearby neighbours and nearby communities by means of this water, the rocks and their perfume, and by thought for those far away.

Behind this hall there is a sort of a hole which provides a large space. Here is the end of everything and everyone. The rocks enter the earth and the waters go underneath the earth - into the well. When one looks into the well he sees the reflection of one self and a reminder that even he has to die and procedure to another life. Even death in this garden is not ugly. It is only a passage that which leads to another life, a life which starts at a higher level in order to reach a new summit built on the life of those before us and therefore we achieve peace of mind and eternal life - above of the clouds and the moon and deeper that the bottom of the pond or of the sea and outcomes every cave.

Franco Serracino Inglott (1948-2002) - Ex-Director General of Agriculture

Translated to English by Mirana Silvio