7,622 kilometres separate Belgium from China and it is 8,000 kilometres from Beijing to Ath (the nearest town to Pairi Daiza). Yet when you walk around The Middle Kingdom, our third World, you really feel you’re somewhere between Nanjing and Suzhou, on the fertile plains of the Yangtze River. Here, authenticity is the golden rule and copying is heresy.
The pavilions, temples, bridges, gardens, water features and paths are clustered into a city that looks just like its far-off prototypes – we really are in the heart of China! That’s not so surprising when you realise it was designed and built by master builders and gardeners from Shanghai. Of course, local materials were selected for the project, including marble, tiles, carved panels and paintings. This ambitious project is rooted in traditional techniques and expertise.
This is the essence of the spirit that runs through the veins of the creators of Pairi Daiza: absolute respect for the Other, the person who comes from another place bringing a different culture, philosophy and beliefs.
The Middle Kingdom is an open book that teaches us about China. This precious book is abundantly illustrated and has many chapters. It tells us a beautiful story that we love to hear, see and live. It is a place that immediately brings us a sense of peace and calm. We’re ready to dive into a world that is very different from our own.
Chinese gardeners have created these wonders by drawing upon philosophy, history, legends, religion and symbols. We discover exquisite depictions of the mineral world, rare and precious stones, sculptures, all in perspective with the plant world – medicinal plants, delicate flowers, exceptional shrubs, remarkable trees and rare herbs.
Soon, the Temples arise before us. These majestic, imposing, architectural feats give us the keys to an empire whose civilisation is one of the oldest on earth... the Temple of Delights, Temple of the Earth, Temple of Compassion, but also the Pavilion of Spring Wisdom, the Pavilion of the Four Moons, the Path that Turns, the Path of Contrasts and the Path of Healing.
In the Middle Kingdom, everything makes sense, nothing is here by chance, and the human being is at the centre of this great mosaic, caught between heaven and earth, body and soul, action and reflection.
In this great communion, humans and animals come together. The fauna reflects a country that is as big as a continent: varied, multifarious, different. We home in on the Asiatic black bear, the Himalayan red panda, the yellow-cheeked gibbon, the mandarin duck and the ounce – the superb snow leopard.
Species that are synonymous with “survivor” are the Père David's deer, which now only exists in captivity, the Chinese giant salamander, which is in critical danger of extinction in its natural environment, and the Chinese alligator, also threatened with extinction.
The list is long, and it would be pointless to name all the animals in the Middle Kingdom, but we can take legitimate pride in mentioning the shining stars that are Hao Hao (meaning “nicely”) and Xing Hui (“twinkling star”), the two giant pandas that arrived in Pairi Daiza in 2014. Two years later, Hao Hao gave birth to Tian Bao (“treasure of heaven”), an extremely rare event for Pairi Daiza, for Belgium and for Europe!