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Suggested “Talking Points” on Saving Our Cultural Center & Garden
Various governmental, media, community organizations, as well as members of the general public will seek feedback broadly throughout our community, not just from known leaders; we need as much as possible to speak clearly with one voice, even if we personalize our comments appropriately to gain general and public sympathy vital to our efforts. In case someone is not clear about the first facts it is that The Chinese Cultural Center and Garden located at 668 N. 44th Street, Phoenix AZ, and it opened in 1997, so this is its 20th year. First, for certain uses, is the 9-points fully stated; then, as needed for other uses, are the same 9 points in summary highlight.
1) The Chinese United Association of Greater Phoenix (CUAGP), as an umbrella organization for 19 nonprofit service clubs of the local community, is naturally near the forefront of a widespread effort of our entire community, including cooperation with other leaders and entities; the CUAGP general spokesman is Mr. Garry Ong 602.380.1616.
2) As of Friday, August 11th, both the Mayor and all members of the City Council of Phoenix have been alerted to our deeply felt and universal community concern;
3) For those not of Chinese ethnicity a Statement has been drafted to help more fully understand the cultural significance of this site, both as an architectural structure, and as an accompanying garden; we can readily provide that Statement either in print or online;
4) As a culture with thousands of years of history and richness, the Chinese both in the ancestral homeland, and locally here in the metropolitan area, have an acute consciousness about identity, values, aesthetics/arts, and all other aspects related to our ethnicity ?hopefully the Statement will clarify that intensity;
5) The concept, creation, and installation of all elements of structure and garden were from an overall vision and unified approach, essentially indivisible without horrific losses;
6) The elements are uniformly the crafting, selection, and inclusion according to lineages of artisan work, often in only family lineages, now unlikely to be ever replicated again, and certainly far superior to anything mass produced in modern factories;
7) The installation is not according to modern techniques but traditional ones; anything removed will almost certainly be destroyed as assembly is not by a nail here or there;
8) The educational and cultural value of replicas of classics is traditional and indisputable whether with a new translation of the plays of Aristophanes, or the latest mastodon at a natural history museum; and,
9) As an addendum to the Petition (if time does not permit research to be immediately completed), a specific comparison between Chinese Garden here in Phoenix to five or so other similar features in North America, will, we confidently believe, demonstrate the unique value and clear superiority we truly must preserve here for everyone in the entire area, not merely the Chinese American community.
  1. Chinese United is helping our entire community in a coordinated way to seek to Save Our Community Center and Garden ?general spokesman is Mr. Garry Ong 602.380.1618.
  2. Mayor and City Council of Phoenix have been advised on Friday, August 11th.
  3. Statement to explain our sentiments to any interested non-Chinese is available.
  4. Chinese have a long history and rich culture: we truly treasure this site and want it preserved.
  5. Center and Garden are unified in design and really need preservation overall as one whole.
  6. Craftmanship was unique and impossible to replicate now at any comparable quality regardless of cost.
  7. Installation was equally unique and intensive; anything touched would be destroyed.
  8. Any disparagement as replicas ignores the customary value of such for culture and education.
  9. Our Phoenix Chinese Garden we hope to demonstrate is superior to all the others in US and Canada.
The Chinese Cultural Center & Garden
Since its opening in 1997 the Chinese Cultural Center and Garden has been an unparalleled landmark for the City of Phoenix and the entire metropolitan area while representing a vital asset for the local vibrant Chinese American community.
The Chinese Cultural Center has always been a multi-use site of shops, offices, and authentic Chinese restaurants. The especially treasured element has been the anchor supermarket featuring the irreplaceable ingredients for culinary traditions of unmatched historical longevity in the modern world; the current Super L Ranch Market provides the variety of an emporium as well as that sine qua non prize of live seafood and fresh meats in desired cuts. Not only were Chinese and other Asian American families absolutely delighted but so were other ethnicities who demand live and fresh not merely by tradition but even more for sound nutrition as well. Naturally the supermarket is always busy and the Center as a whole is an evident microcosm of the urban diversity which now happily characterizes Phoenix as one of the top cities in the Nation. It is crucial to note, as has been shown in numerous research studies, that this multicultural openness is the universal hallmark of urban growth and prosperity in both the recent past and for the future.
What may not be so evident or appreciated by the casual visitor or shopper, especially if not of Chinese ethnicity, is the cultural value represented by the Center itself, and especially the Chinese Garden which is integral thereto.
Everyone whenever possible naturally appreciates the features and d閏or of their home; this certainly extends to elements such as architecture and design (within and without), colors and embellishments, spatial allocations and resource usage as well as conformity to climate and environment. Equally naturally, whole areas and their populations therefore evolve and construct their homes and edifices in a manner geographically appropriate and unique to their history and culture.
The developer of the Chinese Cultural Center specifically possessed a special mind and aim. It was apparent that, over the decades, Americans and Chinese have had a significant set of chances to get a glimpse of each other and unfortunately there had emerged important misunderstandings and misimpressions. In the concept for the Chinese Cultural Center, the goal was to create a place where non-Chinese could acquire a vivid sense/impression of what Chinese culture can mean in terms of architecture and aesthetics. Of course, for Chinese Americans, it would produce a heartfelt sense of homecoming.
At the time of its opening, the Chinese Cultural Center was unique not only to the Phoenix metropolitan area but to most if not all of America ?many places might have a single edifice or an element or two which harkened back to ancestral culture and history, but the Center did this with an overall vision and successful consistency on a scale that sweeps the eye and conveys the heart-impact which comes when divergent people and values finally have a chance meet each other in a serious way. Its distinctively beauteous golden yellow with rich green glazed tile rooflines are visible on landing approaches at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, announcing, so to speak, the diversity of our City.
For the local Chinese American community with its deeply rooted history in the metropolitan Phoenix area, the advent of the Chinese Cultural Center was greatly welcomed indeed: in so many dimensions it gives to this day not only that sense of homecoming as a wonderful icing atop a functional and rich cake of commercial provision and opportunity ?for enterprise has been a true characteristic of our community as our hometown rose from mid-rank to a premier city of America today and tomorrow.
This is all the more especially true of the Chinese Garden. In an urban modern America where only 2% of the population has been agricultural for decades now, it bears noting that the vast majority of the Chinese people have been, for thousands of years, living on farms, close to nature, along rivers often amidst the hills of mountain valleys. Dr. Lin Yutang, the famous popularizer of Chinese culture and philosophy to American readers during the last century, stated our ideal quite well: 揳 house in a garden, and a garden in the house.?/DIV>
The Chinese Cultural Center therefore of course included its Chinese Garden in a design which includes many pavilions replicated from different regional architectural traditions with explanatory plaques, as well as a terraced pond for lotus and water plants. Equally obviously the local Chinese American community responded to this aspect of the development and contributed generously to ensure that the costs of architecture and garden could be fully defrayed in terms of the materials fabricated and then the workmen/skills imported for installation and embellishment. And, once more, other residents and ethnicities have fully appreciated the cultural introduction and asset as school pupils in particular toured often on field trips.
A telling and appropriately concrete expression of this support for the Chinese Cultural Center and Garden from the Chinese American community and many of its leaders as well as individuals and organizations is the Memorial Wall where the names of donors is preserved for viewing. That support continues to this day. While the Garden is not the greater portion of the overall development, it is in fact the most characteristic and concentrated expression on this site of the culture and values involved. It is, like the Center itself, a feature unique to Phoenix and a Chinese garden has or is being emulated in North America in Huntington Beach, CA, Portland OR, and Washington DC, as well as Vancouver in British Columbia etc. Typically the pavilions or other architectural elements in such gardens are uniquely crafted by artisans in what are now uncertain family lines and are comprised of fragile materials where any relocation can only mean effectual destruction.
Therefore, any major redevelopment of the Chinese Cultural Center, and particularly any damage or demolition of its Garden, constitute a tremendous body blow to the entire Chinese American community in the entire Phoenix metropolitan area, diminishing and perhaps eliminating a site which has lasting and intrinsic cultural and historical value even beyond one specific ethnicity.
Moreover, it bears mentioning that for many years the Center was the host of an annual Phoenix Chinese Week Festival of Culture and Cuisine on the occasion of the Chinese Lunisolar New Year. This brought tens of thousands of local residents for their chance to encounter a true glimpse of China without travelling thousands of miles.
The local Chinese American community, on hearing of such possibility, has naturally begun to take appropriate steps. While, of course, we appreciate the property rights of all, zoning processes take into account the overall impact of any particular owner decision or usage. We are hopeful that it may be feasible to achieve a resolution where mutual benefit, and the wider social good for all in metropolitan Phoenix, but especially the City itself, can be sustained and preserved for the future.



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