Montreal and Shanghai this year are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their twinning, formalized on May 14, 1985. The friendship between the two cities notably made possible the construction of a traditional Chinese garden at the heart of the Montréal Botanical Garden.
A little history
In October 1970, Canada became the second Western country to recognize the People’s Republic of China, which was then in the middle of its Cultural Revolution. The first Chinese ambassador to Canada, Wang Wa, settled in Ottawa in 1971. Jean Drapeau, mayor of Montreal at the time and known for his advanced sense of diplomacy, took decisive action for the future of Montreal-China relations: he traveled in person to congratulate the ambassador. With China struggling to emerge from its international isolation, Wang Wa was extremely touched by the gesture. It’s said that the Chinese have a long memory, and it’s likely for that reason that, when he became vice-president of China, Wang Wa agreed to the participation of Shanghai in the Floralies internationales de Montréal (1980). It was during that large-scale event that Pierre Bourque, director of the Montréal Botanical Garden, had meetings that were decisive in permitting construction of the Chinese Garden. Relations between Montreal and China grew richer following the Floralies, and in 1985 Shanghai and Montreal became twin cities.
A garden testifying to friendship
Construction of the Chinese Garden (1990-1991) was only made possible by that understanding and thanks to the enduring quality of the friendly ties created between men like Pierre Bourque and Hu Yunhua of the Shanghai parks and gardens department. Those patiently developed relationships were able to withstand the events at Tiananmen Square, which in 1989 placed serious constraints on Sino-Western relations. During that time, Montreal was the only city twinned with Shanghai that maintained its ties with the Pearl of the Orient, and it did so by way of the Chinese Garden. When Chinese craftsmen and workers touched down in Montreal in the spring of 1990, they were well and truly the only representatives of their nation on Québec soil.
Magnolia and crabapple tree
Ever since, by way of a number of symbols, the Chinese Garden has underscored the friendship between the two cities. In the Entrance Courtyard, notice the presence of the magnolia tree, whose flower is the official emblem of Shanghai, and of the crabapple tree, which represents Montreal. See also the magnificent fresco representing Chinese cranes crossing the ocean in order to dance under Canadian maple trees.
This spring, visit the Chinese Garden one last time in its original form before important restoration work begins, which is being carried out in close partnership…with our good friends from Shanghai.