Phalen Regional Park is blessed with one of the largest lakes in St. Paul; miles of pedestrian, biking, hiking, and XC ski trails; beach volleyball and tennis courts; baseball, softball, and soccer fields; an amphitheater, golf course, hockey rink, and scores of barbecue grills and picnic tables.
But the thing we love the most is the Xiang Jiang Pavilion in Liu Ming Yuan, a.k.a. the St. Paul-Changsha China Friendship Garden. The name ‘Liu Ming Yuan’ is drawn from a poem expressing beauty and hope, even when encountering obstacles. It feels apropos in these strange times.
The pavilion was erected in 2018 and marked the first exchange of cultural gifts between sister cities St. Paul and Changsha in China’s Hunan province; the twosome has been buddy-buddy since 1988. Xiang Jiang is a replica of Changsha’s 18th-century Aiwan Pavilion. It was fabricated overseas, disassembled and shipped to St. Paul in five containers, and then reassembled in Phalen Park by U.S. craftsmen under the guidance of Changsha artisans.
St. Paul, for its part, gifted Changsha five statues of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters. The lot included Lucy dressed in traditional Hmong clothing, designed by Minnesota artist Kao Lee Thao, and Snoopy on a doghouse decorated with loons and trees, designed by Minnesota artist YuDong Shen.
If you’re just strolling past, the pavilion is worth a closer look. The roof peak resembles a hulu gourd, and there are eight water dragons perched on the eves. Hand-painted peonies represent virtue and beauty; narcissus symbolize grace, elegance, and family reunions; and Chinese plum blossoms stand for perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity.
Behind the pavilion is the Hmong Heritage Wall, with totems from both Minnesota Hmong and Hunan Hmong culture carved into pink granite. The phoenix, in particular, transcends borders, and serves as a universal reminder that we will — we must — rise above.
Phalen Regional Park
1600 Phalen Dr., St. Paul, MN; 651-778-0413.