Monday, February 23, 2009

Garden of Hope

I'm reading an interesting and thought-provoking book China Road by NPR correspondent Rob Gifford about his 3000-mile road trip along Route 312 from Shanghai to the Chinese border with Kazakhstan. The author is quite knowledgable about Chinese history as well as the current Chinese society. The book combines his personal accounts of all sorts of people he encountered on the road with his critical opinions as well as some historical backgrounds. After watching several documentary series about China (such as China from the Inside and China Rises), I found the social phenomenon portrayed in this book not unfamiliar at all. However, I was still intrigued by Rob’s writing since the power of words offers more sensitivity in story-telling and more depth of thinking.

At the end of the chapter on Nanjing, he described an unexpected sight of a nice garden for the blind people located inside the Nanjing Botanical Garden. He was quite amazed at this humanized design in China as he had never seen anything like that even in the US or Europe. To me, such an ordinary garden is truly extraordinary, especially considering the weak in China today still has no voice in the society.

I became very curious about this garden and found some info from this online article: The garden opened to the public in 1998, with an area of 12,000 m². Here are some details -

Over 150 species of plants have been planted within the Garden for blind people to touch, smell and feel ... Sixty species of plant in the Garden have labels in braille. Thirty of these also have a small speaker attached to the label and a recorded message with detailed information about that species' name, features and usage can be heard when a button is pressed.

Special design features include: using gentle natural slopes without steps, placing cobbles in the footpaths in front of plants that are meant to be touched, including a 400 m long stainless steel railing, building toilets specially designed for blind people and having corridor pillars with smooth edges.

I tried to get some images of the garden, but found only one picture showing the entry. When I get a chance to visit Nanjing, I'll make sure to stop by this heart-warming place. And hopefully I can take a road trip across China someday to get my first hand stories.


Linda said...

What a wonderful idea for a garden! (I love visiting your blog- you always post great things on here!)

Mark C said...

This is a good book. I forgot about the garden story. What a great concept. I'll have to get my copy out and reread that section.
Hope you make the cross country trip some day.