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101 Things To Do: St. Paul-Changsha China Friendship Garden

The friendship garden celebrates the sister city relationship between St. Paul and Changsha, China. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 6
The Hmong Wall was built in Changsha, China, and shipped to St. Paul to become part of the St. Paul - Changsha Friendship Garden. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 6
The natural beauty of Phalen Park helps create the peaceful tone of the St. Paul Changsha China Friendship Garden. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 6
The area of Phalen Park around the Chinese pavilion is planned for other buildings, statues, and bridges as the park continues to develop. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 6
The Chinese pavilion in the St. Paul Changsha China Friendship Garden opened to the public on Nov. 3, 2018. Steve Gardiner / River Town Multimedia5 / 6
This close-up shows the details in the painting on the roof of the Chinese pavilion in St. Paul's Phalen Park. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia6 / 6

After years of planning and fundraising, the St. Paul-Changsha China Friendship Garden of Whispering Willows and Flowing Waters in Phalen Regional Park opened to the public on Nov. 3, 2018.

The park, honoring the sister-city relationship between St. Paul and Changsha, China, is built on the philosophy of a China garden which means that it appears as part of nature even though it is manmade, promotes a connection to nature, and respects nature and human needs.

Linda Mealey-Lohmann, president of the Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society, said the park is "open year-round and free to the public. It is a place of contemplation and connecting with beauty, nature, and culture."

In 2015, Mealey-Lohmann and others traveled to Changsha, sister city of St. Paul since 1988, to learn more about garden design and the Hmong culture in Changsha, the ancestral home of the Hmong population in Minnesota.

They returned with plans to build the park and the Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society took on the responsibility of raising the funds. They received some money from the Cultural STAR program with the St. Paul City Council, but "the majority is from private donors," Mealey-Lohmann said. "We have hundreds and hundreds of donors."

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The park will add more features in the future, but for now, the main structure is the Chinese Pavilion. Behind the pavilion is the Hmong Heritage Wall which was built in China and shipped to St. Paul.

"The Hmong Heritage Wall contains symbols from both the Minnesota Hmong Culture and the Changsha Hmong culture," Mealey-Lohmann said in her speech at the groundbreaking. "Through our engagement with local Hmong historians, we have learned that the Hmong here trace their ancestral roots back to the Changsha area of China and that there are about two million Hmong living in the Changsha area. This has given a deeper significance to this sister-city China Garden."

Mealey-Lohmann noted that the name of the park in Chinese means "willow / bright / garden." She said, "Look around at all the beautiful willow trees that light up this park."

She said she hopes that visitors to the garden "come away with some cross-cultural understanding. This is a window into both Chinese culture and Hmong culture, and if people can see the beauty in these cultures, we are hoping it helps make the world a better place."

If you go...

Name: St. Paul-Changsha China Friendship Garden

Address: 1600 Phalen Drive, St Paul, Minn.

Phone: 612-791-2218


Email: Use the contact form on the website

Hours: Always open

Admission: Free

Steve Gardiner

Steve Gardiner taught high school English and journalism for 38 years in Montana and Wyoming.  He started working at the Republican Eagle in May 2018.  He focuses on features and outdoor stories.  

(651) 301-7872