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Lan Yuan Garden

  • 3 minutes

Dunedin, Otago

Dunedin is home to a classic Chinese scholars garden, Lan Yuan. A fascinating glimpse into Asian garden fung shui principles. Imagine a garden built in China, dismantled, shipped to NZ and reconstructed on a small urban site in Dunedin.



  • Explore a recreated Chinese scholar’s garden (17thc) linking the story of Chinese gold miners, Chinese settlement in NZ to the immigrant’s cultural origins
  • A rare glimpse of the classic Suzhou and Hangzhou styled gardens
  • Gift shop with authentic Chinese tea, teahouse serving tea and dumplings
  • Discover an authentic example of the Chinese traditional principles of feng shui (wind & water) in a garden interpretation


Hand-made terracotta roof tiles, manufactured in Suzhou have flower symbols indicating the garden is open to the public.

Look at the tiled floors for herringbone patterns and mosaic pebbles. Over two tonnes of pebbles, also brought out from China, were used in the garden.

Shanghai Construction and Decoration Company and the Shanghai Museum supervised the construction of the garden on its Dunedin site. The Dunedin Chinese Garden Trust handed the Garden to the Dunedin City Council to manage and ensure its continued authenticity and integrity as a lasting footprint of Chinese identity and culture. Lan Yuan Garden was opened in September 2008.



  • Represents late Ming early Qing Scholar’s Garden separated from Dunedin’s city streets by a 4 metre perimeter wall
  • A large lake is the central feature that an entrance hall, square pavilion, study and climbing mountain are positioned around. There is also a tea house, and two storey conference hall
  • Zig-zag bridges ensure feng shui principles are adhered to as connections to the Chongyuan the ‘heart of the lake’ pavilion
  • At the entrance is a magnificent Pai Lous archway framed with two lion statues crafted from solid granite
  • A stylised river forms a boundary between the outside and inside worlds
  • The garden covers 2,500 square metres.
Lan Yuan Garden, The Dunedin Chinese Garden design, Dunedin historic precinct, Otago, New Zealand
Lan Yuan Garden, The Dunedin Chinese Garden
@Lan Yuan Dunedin Chinese Garden
@Lan Yuan Dunedin Chinese Garden

Lan Yuan, Dunedin Chinese Garden is a collaboration between the Dunedin City Council and the Shanghai Municipal Government. The authenticity of the garden design took eight years to merge. The Garden is in the traditional yuanlin style, and was designed by Cao Yongkang of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Chen Ling of Tongji University, and Tan Yufeng of Shanghai Museum. They used as their basis the traditional gardens of the Jiangnan area, specifically because these gardens represent the apogee of Chinese garden style while at the same time being suitable for small sites in urban settings. (current cities of Suzhou and Hangzhou are favourite garden tourist destinations)


Lan Yuan Dunedin Chinese scholar’s garden has no nails in its construction. All wooden structures are Chinese fir, are held together using mortise and tenon joints. The timber has been coated in seven layers of protective lacquer to preserve its look and against decay.

Other traditional features of the garden include a curved bridge, a moon gate, and a double corridor. Potted plants and sculptures along the paths and in the courtyard between the tower block and the tea house complete the tranquil ambience. The buildings in the garden include a tea house, which would traditionally be a dining room for the scholar and guests, a study serving as a sanctuary, the tower block, and three pavilions, the hexagonal Heart of the Lake pavilion, a half pavilion at the highest point of the climbing mountain rockery, and one square pavilion.

The Shangahi Construction team included 40 skilled workers including two cooks. The Chinese team lived in the backpackers accommodation across the road.

The entrance gateway was built by another 13 artisans. The construction work included the pouring of 560 cubic metres of concrete, the use of over 280 tonnes of sand, 130 tonnes of hand-finished granite paving stones, as well as 380,000 hand-made roof tiles, and hand-constructed bricks and lattice-work.

Almost 1000 tonnes of rock from Lake Tai – an important feature of Chinese architecture for over 1000 years – was imported for the construction to New Zealand in over 40 shipping containers. The majority of Lake Tai’s rock is found in the climbing mountain. Today Lake Tai is no quarried for export rock due to the degradation of the Lake floor.

@Lan Yuan Dunedin Chinese Garden
@Lan Yuan Dunedin Chinese Garden


@Lan Yuan Dunedin Chinese Garden
@Lan Yuan Dunedin Chinese Garden

The Lan Yuan Dunedin Chinese Scholars Garden is conveniently located on the circuit of the Dunedin Railway Station  and adjacent to the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.

  • Admission fees apply
  • Due to the narrow corridors and steps parts of the Lan Yuan Chinese Garden are not suitable for wheelchairs
  • No dogs allowed
  • Opening hours, check Lan Yuan Chinese Scholar’s Garden for up to date information

Short on time check out, A day in Dunedin visiting gardens, a place for kids to play and a fabulous cafe.

For more gardens to visit in Dunedin check out Dunedin Botanic GardenLarnach CastleOlveston HouseGlenfalloch Garden and RestaurantPort Chalmers Rhododendron Deli in a former quarry. And remember to check out the botanical bedding displays in front of the glorious Victorian architecture of the Dunedin Railway Station.



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