Press Release - Oregon Couple Makes Gift of $2 Million to the Chinese Garden

March 29, 2013


Funding Enables The Huntington to Move Forward on the Next Phase of the Garden’s Development


Judy Yin Shih and Joel Axelrod


SAN MARINO, Calif.—A major gift in support of the Chinese Garden at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is enabling the institution to move forward on the much anticipated second phase of the landmark garden’s development.


Judy Yin Shih 石茵 and Joel Axelrod of Ashland, Ore., (right) have made a gift of $2 million to fund construction of the Clear and Transcendent Pavilion 清越, a traditional Chinese structure that will  be one of the focal points of the garden’s cultural life. Situated at the edge of the lake on the garden’s undeveloped north side, the new 1,129-sq. ft. pavilion will serve as an open-air performance space for presentations of Chinese music, opera, and dance.


Additional key funding for construction of Phase Two includes more than $3.5 million in gifts from donors in China and the United States.


Known as the Garden of Flowing Fragrance, Liu Fang Yuan 流芳園, The Huntington’s classical Chinese landscape opened to visitors in 2008 on a wooded 12-acre site north of the Japanese Garden. Five acres were completed in the initial stage of construction, with skilled artisans from China providing authentic craftsmanship for a complex of lake-side pavilions, carved granite bridges, and a tea shop. The $18.3 million cost of the first phase was funded by more than 350 local and international donors.


Since the garden’s acclaimed debut, The Huntington’s design partners in China, the Suzhou Institute of Landscape Architecture Design, have been developing plans for Phase Two.


“The generosity of Judy and Joel enables us to move forward toward our long-term goal of completing this spectacular garden,” says Steven Koblik, president of The Huntington. “Chinese gardens are meant to be dynamic places for performance, for gathering and socializing, as well as for quiet contemplation. This gift helps us create a space that will accommodate a wide range of programmatic activities. We are deeply touched and very excited by the possibilities.”


The Clear and Transcendent Pavilion


The name of the Clear and Transcendent Pavilion is meant to evoke the crystal purity of music gently floating out across the lake. Fittingly, the pavilion’s south-facing stage will overlook the water, allowing music played there to be enjoyed throughout the garden. For more formal performances, the north side of the pavilion will open onto a large inner courtyard that can seat an audience of 350.


Shih and Axelrod were residents of San Marino from 2005 to 2011, but it was not until Shih retired in 2008 and started volunteering as a docent at The Huntington that the couple began to explore the institution’s cultural and intellectual offerings. “My experience as a docent not only raised my awareness of the varieties of Chinese gardens but helped me develop a deeper appreciation for the understated grace and subtle meanings within a scholar’s garden,” says Shih. Citing a rich lecture program that provided in-depth learning experiences in Chinese art, music, literature, and horticulture, Shih adds, “I found a place where I can let my own garden grow.”


Although the couple now lives out of state, they have not forgotten the “wonderful spirit of the Chinese Garden,” says Shih. Helping support it was high on their list of philanthropic priorities. “It is a place that has enriched our lives and that so beautifully represents the best of Chinese culture and its heritage. We’re especially honored to be associated with the building of the Clear and Transcendent Pavilion, which will be at the heart of Chinese cultural and performing arts.”


The new pavilion’s intricate wood carving, roof tiles, and stonework will be crafted by artisans from Suzhou, who are anticipated to arrive and begin work on the site this fall. Local contractors will provide the steel and other infrastructure. A scenic rockery on the northwest shore of the lake, built with traditional tai hu style rocks from China, will be also be completed during this stage of construction.


Additional structures yet to be funded include a boat-shaped pavilion, a hillside viewing pavilion, and a terraced courtyard for the display of penjing, the Chinese form of bonsai.


CONTACT:  Lisa Blackburn, 626-405-2140,
                     Susan Turner-Lowe, 626-405-2147,


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About The Huntington
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars and the general public. More information about The Huntington can be found online at

Visitor Information
The Huntington is located at 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, Calif., 12 miles from downtown Los Angeles. It is open to the public Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from noon to 4:30 p.m.; and Saturday, Sunday, and Monday holidays from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Summer hours (Memorial Day through Labor Day) are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed Tuesdays and major holidays. Admission on weekdays: $20 adults, $15 seniors (65+), $12 students (ages 12–18 or with full-time student I.D.), $8 youth (ages 5–11), free for children under 5. Group rate, $11 per person for groups of 15 or more. Members are admitted free. Admission on weekends: $23 adults, $18 seniors, $13 students, $8 youth, free for children under 5. Group rate, $14 per person for groups of 15 or more. Members are admitted free. Admission is free to all visitors on the first Thursday of each month with advance tickets. Information: 626-405-2100 or

About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

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