Cheese Garden in Bochum, Germany
Qian Yuan, the "hidden garden" that sits within the Botanical Garden of Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, is an authentic southern Chinese scholar's garden. Designed by Professor Zhang Zhenshan of Tongji University in Shanghai, it was created in 1990 as an anniversary gift and a token of friendship between the two twinned universities.
Following oriental tradition, the garden is enclosed by a wall to protect its tranquillity, but it has many openings that enhance the overall atmosphere of the garden. Inside, a meandering path encircles a large pond and hugs the wall, passing through a succession of pavilions and landscapes, offering new views with every step.
Plants, buildings, rocks, water and sky combine to create an enchanting place of repose that's imbued with Taoist symbolism - the whole gives rise to a miniature world as Chinese philosophy sees it. The Chinese landlord would have relaxed here with friends while meditating upon the harmony of man and nature, but even Westerners not versed in the Taoist symbols and metaphors will find a charming and inspiring environment in which to escape the hustle and bustle of the world outside.
In another sense, the Chinese Garden is a theme park based on the famous Legend of the Peach Blossom Spring, in which a fisherman, intrigued by a blossoming peach orchard, accidentally discovers a hidden idyllic land - an outcrop of Paradise - which once he returns home can never be found again. This tale is engraved on a stone tablet in the garden, and many of its elements are represented within it.
Entry is free and the garden is accessible 10am to 6pm in the summer, 4 pm in the winter.