Alpine Garden: Preserve Indigenous Culture and Native Plants

Within Pan-Himalaya Region, Alpine Garden is situated on hillside of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in Lijiang, Yunnan province, China, at an altitude of 2560 meters high. The design effort draws upon the site, establishing a distinct closeness with indigenous Naxi culture and alpine nature in creating a place of comfort, solitude and peace. It hired local Naxi stonemasons and carpenters with excellent inherited craftsmanship to carry out all stone and wood related works to really restore historic characteristics into the contemporary design. The inspiring use of native plants, melt snow water, local stones and ethnic textures not only creates a variety of spaces and views but also draws visitors in to explore the rich local culture and really feel they are not just a visitor but a local resident belonging here. With such a great view, to integrate new and old, the best thing to do is as little as possible.

Site Introduction

Within Pan-Himalaya Region, Alpine Garden is situated on hillside of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in Lijiang, Yunnan province, China, at an altitude of 2560 meters high. The 4-hectare site sits close to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Yuhu historic village in north and Baisha historic town in east which can be overlooked from alpine garden. It was created from an ancient Naxi village, which has been abandoned for several decades. In the old days, it was called “Forest Retreat” where is cradle and retreat of the chieftain of Naxi nationality. This new garden was created to showcase the long history of Naxi culture and significant native alpine plants.


A slice of modernism in a rustic environment, Alpine Garden challenges the notion of contemporary design in a rugged alpine site with grand landscape surrounded. Respect for the natural and cultural landscape is evident through the recreation of the 4-hectare derelict site, encouraging the visitors to fully immerse in the humbly designed environment with melt snow water, native vegetation and rich habitat.

By preserving onsite heritage, landscape architects were on a mission to redefine visitor experience to attract more people to fund the project to make it economically sustainable. In a rapidly changing world, globalization is expanding to Lijiang to wipe off the remains of the Naxi culture with what we called modern civilization, little by little. By blending old Naxi and contemporary design, it serves as a strong educational and interactive landscape place to demonstrate importance of Naxi garden tradition, native plants, rich local stone materials and new spatial experience. It is also the best garden in Lijiang to enjoy the snowcapped glacier and overlook Baisha historic town.

Preserve Cultural and Native Plants

In both natural and cultural aspects, Xupai tree is the key element to evoke spirit of Naxi. It is said that Naxi people always surround an evergreen tree that is called Xupai to build their homes and create their village, because they believe that Xupai has some kinds of natural forces to protect their land from generation to generation. Xupai is also an important public open space where Naxi people hold community events and celebrate traditional festivals.

The spiritual Xupai of the alpine garden is a large, aged oak tree with 8 thick branches that resides at the center of the site for hundreds of years. The design team carefully kept it untouched and used it as a visual focal point to create culturally sensitive landscape which blends together new and old seamlessly. Visitors start their walk from a long white stone wall, then step down on a long meandering black wooden path to interact with Xupai in the majestic beauty and tranquility. In respond to the surrounding farmland context, the meandering wooden footpath leaded visitors through a characteristic alpine lawn that mixed with shamrocks to symbolize linear ridges of wheat field. The alpine lawn with Xupai at the center serves as an gathering and event space where people enjoy dancing, singing, reading, viewing. It provides the best vantage point to appreciate grand Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and overlook Baisha historic town. With such a great view, the best thing to do is as little as possible.

The site was surrounded by large forest consisting of a mature stand of oak, Paulownia fortune, Toxicodendron verniciflum, Pinus yunnanensis that was beautifully wild. The design team adopted comprehensively approaches to avoid any heavy machinery to carefully preserve every indigenous tree and groundcover. Landscape design details sneak through natural environment, with walls separating spaces and footpaths connecting beautiful scenes.

To soften edges of historic stone buildings, it is important to use comprehensive planting palette which consists of indigenous alpine plants to improve ecosystem and new ornamental plants to enhance landscape richness. Most new plants were locally sourced from nearby nurseries. Careful attention was paid to re-establish alpine plants that provide wildlife habitat and culturally connect Naxi people. Alpine plants such as Rhododendron decorum Franch, Iris bulleyana Dykes, Euphorbia stracheyi, etc. were selected to highlight particularity of alpine ecology of Pan-Himalaya region while providing great aesthetic interest to visitors.

Preserve Local Stones and Craftsmanship

Lijiang is an ancient city built with stones, therefor stone is one of the most important cultural elements embedded in Naxi spirit. It is said that once the stone is erected, the village is settled. Sourced within 50 km, local stones are wildly used in landscape walls, water features and paving. Yellow sandstones are used on walls adjacent to building, white glacier stones are constructed on freestanding landscape walls, Guifeng red stones are paved on bottom of water features, colorful Wuhua stones are laid on some footpaths, and black Heishan stones are used on the wall of art center.

With uncompromising craftsmanship, local stonemasons and carpenters carried out all stone and wood related works. By using traditional technics to carve and stack, they deliberately remain all subtle texture details on every stone while the design form is contemporary and simple. It sends visitors a clear message that alpine garden is strongly connected to Naxi culture in Lijiang and has its own uniqueness.

Water Feature as a Metaphor for Historic Water Elements

The water features were conceived as an abstracted reference to the historic Three Wells and irrigation canal. Comprehensive water network system has been running through Lijiang for more than a thousand year. Three Wells represents the wisdom of Naxi people to make good use of melted snow cascading down snow mountains and into the irrigation channels. The upper well is drinking water for local residents, the middle well is used to wash vegetables and fruits, the lower well is used to wash clothes, then outflow water is to irrigate nearby farmland.

Collecting water from melt snow, the 35m long water channel wall is not only constructed as a retaining wall to sort out level difference between road and terrace, but also a metaphor for traditional irrigation channel. The design team integrates Three Wells concept into water features of both entrance and canteen, where water falls tree times. Red Guifeng stones are placed at the bottom of the pool, and black slates are used as the transition. It reflects a deep respect for the place and its inherent beauty, a raw elegance that is emphasized through the design’s forms, materials, and textures.

The use of shadows, textures, and subtle colors enhances the inherent beauty of the large landscape space and gives visitors a sense of place for both traditional and contemporary Lijiang.

Role of the entrant in the project (landscape architect, developer …):

Hylla Group


Liangjun Zhou, Ting Zhou
Lead Designers

Hao Yu, Liping Chen, Xueting Liu,Weiguang Hou,Hongjie Shi,Junxing Lv,Yueheng Liu,Qiuyu Zhang,Jingzhi Du,Pei Han,Zijian Wang,Jiaqi Liu, Meng Zhang,Jie Chen
Landscape Designers

Lijiang Cairunhong Engineering Co., Ltd.
Local Naxi Stonemasons

Shangri-La Hongmutang Traditional Wood Structure Co., Ltd.
Local Naxi Carpenters

Chengdu Shangye Horticulture Co., Ltd.
Planting Consultant

Zhou Hongliang Lighting Design Beijing Co., Ltd.
Lighting Consultant

Beijing Guanhe Shifang Consulting Co., Ltd
Planning Consultant

Qiujin Hu, Fei Yang,Qiaohou He
Client Coordinators

Sichuan Xingli Garden Environment Engineering Co., Ltd.
Landscape Contractor

Project location (For publicly accessible projects please include exact address. For Private gardens place write Country or State):

No.99 Yanjiao Village,Baisha Town, Yulong County,Lijiang,Yunnan Province, China

Design year:2019

Year Built:2020


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