A Vietnamese Garden
Chat V. Dang, Anthony H. Tran
         In historical palaces and private estates across the world, a magnificent garden is the proud symbol of civilization and wealth. More down to earth, a garden is a plot of land by the family's home cultivated with flowers, vegetables or fruits for enjoyment and nutrition. A garden may incorporate rocks, ponds and streams for relaxation and meditation. Fittingly, an English garden or a Japanese garden brings up colorful and picturesque images in the minds of tourists and plant lovers. Who has heard of a Vietnamese garden? I was asked that intriguing question just after our group of friends had toured the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. With unguarded spontaneity, I replied "I guess we don't really have a typical Vietnamese garden." Then, realizing the full impact of the subject, I attempted to involve my colleagues. "We've just seen the Japanese Garden and the recently inaugurated Chinese Garden. What if there were enough donations to design and build a Vietnamese Garden at the Huntington Library? What should it look like?" Several suggestions came up right away but were quickly dismissed as "too Chinese." We then agreed that a typical Vietnamese garden, despite Vietnam's pride in its 4000-year civilization, is more practical then decorative, cultural or philosophic: an orchard of tropical fruit trees and a small plot of kitchen herbs. For lack of further interest, our conversation switched to Tibet, the Beijing Olympics and the US presidential campaign...

         Subconsciously perturbed by the matter, I got out of bed early, maybe too early. Complex ideas and colorful images were bumping each other in my foggy mind. I booted up my computer to jot down my thoughts. The glare of the LCD screen completely woke me up. My scientific formation took over, and I started to organize the description of a Vietnamese Garden. The public would enjoy garden vistas and learn about the culture and flora of Vietnam. Well-known Vietnamese culture icons and recollections from my pre-1975 years shape the representation. Of course, selected trees and flowers should be able to acclimate to local conditions. While I was writing, I wished that my vision would advance the concept of a fund to construct and maintain a Vietnamese Garden in Southern California, Texas and/or Florida where the climate is warmer, close to that of Saigon. I wished that it would offer food for thought for successful, philanthropic entrepreneurs and earn their financial support. I wished that it would serve as a canvas on which ideas could be weaved on. I wished that I could pull together a group of experienced and dedicated people to form a steering planning committee...

        Please read the rest of the story in THE WOMEN OF VIETNAM.
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