No trip to Singapore is complete without a visit to the city-state’s majestic Chinese Garden. This landmark is located at the heart of Singapore’s Jurong Lake Gardens, an expansive national park in the island’s Western Region.
Jurong Lake’s Chinese Garden isn’t hard to reach thanks to Singapore’s extensive Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system. In fact, you could fly into Singapore Changi Airport, hop onto the MRT East-West Line, and ride straight to the Chinese Garden -- it even has its own stop. You’d be there in about an hour and a half, having traveled the entire width of the nation.
Once you arrive at Jurong Lake, the marvels of imperial China await. Here’s just some of what you can look forward to:
1. Stone Lions Greet Visitors At The Entrance
At the main entrance of the Chinese Garden, you’ll find two traditional Chinese lion statues, sculpted out of fine imported marble. Chinese tradition associates these lion figures with authority, joy, and protection; stone lions guard many ancient Chinese temples and royal dwellings.
2. A Majestic Bridge Transports Visitors To Another Time
Pass by the two lucky lions to cross the White Rainbow Bridge, the first of many gorgeous crossings over the garden’s waterways. With its white stone and 13 proud arches, the White Rainbow Bridge seems to transport viewers through time and space. It is modeled after architecture from Beijing’s Quing Dynasty Summer Palace, after all.
3. Buildings Are Inspired By Ancient Song Dynasty Architecture
When city officials first considered the idea of building a Chinese Garden in 1968, they reached out to Taiwanese architect Yuen-chen Yu, an expert on Chinese gardens. Yu quickly zeroed in on a style that would bind the garden’s structures and landscapes together: northern Chinese imperial design from the 1,000-year-old Song Dynasty. Yu designed the Chinese Garden, and construction was completed in 1975.
4. The Garden Is Small Enough To Experience In One Day, But Big Enough To Warrant A Return
It’s tough to plan for a thorough experience of the Chinese Garden. We’re tempted to recommend setting aside a single day -- or even a single afternoon -- but to really soak in the garden’s features, you might want to return a few days in a row.
It’s not that the garden is inaccessibly large, more that there’s so much to see. The garden occupies just around 33 acres (13.5 hectares, if you prefer metric), which is roughly 25 football fields. Most of this space is highly accessible with wide, paved pathways that are flat or very gently sloping. The garden’s pagodas are the key exception here; their upper floors are accessible only by stairways.
5. Don’t Go For The Turtles; The Turtles Have Crawled Off
Since 2002, a key attraction for the Chinese Garden has been the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum, a sort of zoo for around 500 terrapins, turtles, and tortoises. You’re likely to see the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum listed on websites and promotional materials as you plan your trip to the garden.
But wait! For reasons that remain unclear, the museum has moved from the Chinese Garden to a leisure park called Orto in Singapore’s North Region. You can still splash around with the turtles; you just can’t do it at the Chinese Garden anymore.
6. Experience The Largest Suzhou-Style Bonsai Garden Outside Of China
The turtles may be gone, but the garden’s bonsai trees remain. The Chinese Garden’s Bonsai Garden displays more than 2,000 miniature sculpted trees, representing Bonsai traditions from across Asia. The Bonsai Garden -- like the Chinese Garden writ large -- is free to visit.
7. Visit During Chinese New Year Or The Mid-Autumn Festival For Incredible Displays
Singapore’s ethnically Chinese population makes up almost 75 percent of its citizens, and Chinese holidays call for huge celebrations. Some of the most impressive of these celebrations take place at the Chinese Gardens.
Visit during the Chinese New Year, which takes place on the first day of the Chinese lunar new year. (It usually falls between January 21 and February 20, depending on the year.) Or head to Singapore in September or October (again, the precise date varies by year) to catch the Mid-Autumn Festival, also called the Mooncake Festival. One year’s Mooncake Festival celebration at the Chinese Gardens featured more than 3,500 glowing lanterns, many of them floating on Jurong Lake.
Regardless of when you visit, the Chinese Garden is a must-see location for history lovers, architecture enthusiasts, and anyone else capable of wonder. And if you run out of things to do at the Chinese Garden, you can easily make your way to these 10 truly stunning locations to see in Singapore. And, meet Merlion: the fascinating history behind Singapore’s most enduring symbol.