Minnesota China Friendship Garden

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2021 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund
Minnesota China Friendship Garden
Recipient Type
Non-Profit Business/Entity
Start Date
April 2021
End Date
November 2021
Activity Type
Counties Affected
Project Overview

A classical China garden features stone: mini-mountains, poetic tablets, part of a painting. Nine art stones for the China Friendship Garden will amplify Chinese, Hmong & Native voices with form and calligraphy that sing out identity, honor icons, and display messages of cultural curators. This topography of talent will be unveiled in a cultural celebration, generate cultural guides and docents; become a destination for students of all ages; and affirm intercultural collaboration in Minnesota.

Competitive Grant Making Body
Advisory Group Members and Qualifications

Asneth Omare (Brooklyn Park, MN). Asneth is a Kenyan Immigrant who works in the non-profit and social service fields working on public health initiatives.

Al Lun (Rochester, MN) is a Chinese immigrant, former IT professional for IBM and currently is a board member of the Diversity Council and YMCA in Rochester.

Kieran Myles Andres Tverbakk (Minneapolis, MN) is a first-generation Mexican-Norwegian-American artist focused on visibility of BIPOC queer and trans individuals as well as creating space for Chicanx queerness.


Conflict of Interest Disclosed
Conflict of Interest Contact

Laura Benson

Minnesota Humanities Center



Legal Citation / Subdivision
Minn. State Legislature Article 4, Section 2, Subdivision 8, (d)
Appropriation Language

$850,000 the first year and $850,000 the second year are for a competitive grants program to provide grants to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of Minnesota.
The Minnesota Humanities Center must operate a competitive grants program to provide grants to programs that preserve and honor the cultural heritage of Minnesota or that provide education and student outreach on cultural diversity or to programs that empower communities to build their identity and culture. Priority must be given to grants for individuals and organizations working to create, celebrate, and teach indigenous arts and cultural activities and arts organizations and programs preserving, sharing, and educating on the arts and cultural heritage of immigrant communities in Minnesota.

2021 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Direct expenses
Number of full time equivalents funded
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

This project, and the larger Minnesota China Garden, honor and amplify immigrant culture, provide education and increase awareness of diverse cultures. Below are the measurable outcomes as they relate to our goals:


Measurable Outcomes of Goal #1 [to involve relevant cultures in the selection, design, and installation of these 9 Art Stones in this classical work of public art]:

  • # of individuals involved in selection, content & placement of stones (Target goal of 20 individuals);
  • # stones created/installed (9 Art Stones).
  • # artists and cultural advisors used to select, design and engrave Art Stones (Target goal of 9 individuals)


Measurable Outcomes of Goal #2 [to further create and promote an accessible and inspiring public open space and Unveiling Event that honors Native and immigrant cultures, and opens doors to healing and understanding]:

  • # of volunteers involved in planning the unveiling event (Target goal of 46 volunteers)
  • # of volunteer hours to plan the unveiling event (Target goal of 250 hours)
  • # cultural performers (Target goal of 15 performers)
  • # of attendees at Unveiling Event (estimated attendance 500)


Measurable Outcomes of Goal #3 [to deepen viewers’ understanding of the garden and the cultural significance of its elements by creating and providing self-guided tour materials and trained docents, newspaper articles, school fieldtrips, and sponsoring a poetry contest]:

  • 1 Major Press Release produced
  • # of newspaper articles submitted or published (Target goal of 5 publications)
  • # of school field trips (Target goal of 5 field trips)
  • # of poems submitted (Target goal of 12 submissions Statewide with representation from the Hmong, Chinese, Native American, Phalen Park, and student communities)
  • 1 document to explain the cultural significance of all the Art Stones that can be made available via our website for the public and emailed to local schools
  • Conduct 3 interviews of attendees to gauge impact and knowledge gained and suggestions for future cultural education.
  • 1 Videotape of the Unveiling Event, posted on website, Facebook page, WeChat, and Instagram

1 issue of China Garden Newsletter covering the event (expected audience of 500 people

Measurable Outcome(s)

Outcome of Goal #1:  We engaged 22 individuals (not including paid contractors) who had knowledge and expertise in Classical China Garden design and/or the relevant cultures to effectuate the selection, content, and placement of the 9 Art Stones; they included artists and cultural advisors from the Chinese (9), Hmong (3), and Native American (3) communities who helped select and design the 9 Art Stones.  Nearly 300 hours were expended in the selection of the stones, the selection of the text for the stones (and details about font, size, placement of the text on the stone, etc.), the location and orientation of installing the stones at the site. 

The text for the 9 Art stones (with translations provided here) are as follows. 1 Dakota Stone: Dakota TaMakoce | Imnija Ska Otunwe. The first line translates: “Dakota Homelands” or “Lands of the Dakota.” The second line is: “Village along the White Cliffs” or “St. Paul.” Dakota translations by Redwing Thomas. 

5 Chinese stones: (1) 山水有清音   心与月俱静.  This is a composite of two Chinese poems: the first line from a poem by Zuo Si 左思 (250-305), translates as “Mountains and waters are making pure music.”  The second line from a poem by Li Tiaoyuan 调元 (1734-1803), translates as “My heart and the moon are listening in peace.” (2) means “Beautiful” and is also the first character in the word Meiguo 美國 meaning “America.”  (3) means “Middle” and is also the first character in the word Zhongguo 中國 meaning “China.” (4)  means “Bright” and is also the first character in the word Mingzhou 明州 meaning “Minnesota” meaning “Minnesota.” (5) means “Garden” or “Park” and has been the logo for the Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society since 2005.

3 Hmong stones: (1) Moob Minnesota txais tog koj = “Hmong Minnesotans welcome you,” (2) Kev kawm txuj, kawm ci yog kev tsim nuj, tsim nqi; Kev sib pab, sib txhawb yog kev vam meej = “Education is knowledge, knowledge is wisdom; The path to success is by helping and supporting each other,” (3) Yog thaaj chaw nuav tsi muaj yaam koj nyam, los thov koj nyam yaam koj muaj = “If this place does not have what you like, please like what you have.”


Outcome of Goal #2:  We created and installed 9 Art Stones at the China Friendship Garden; 5 with Chinese calligraphy, 3 in the Hmong language, and 1 in the Dakota language.  Each stone generally weighs between 1 and 2 tons.  See attached educational document with the description of the cultural significance of each stone.  We held an Unveiling Event on September 18, 2021, attended by more 100 community members, and involved members of the Native America community, Chinese community, and Hmong community in the event as organizers and participants.  The event began with at 9:45 with Dakota drummers drumming their welcome to attendees as they entered the West Entrance Archway at 9:45. At 10:00, MCFGS President Bill Zajicek welcomed the visitors and introduced speakers Senator Mary Kunesh (representing the Dakota community), MN Senator Foung Hawj, MCFGS HAC Chair Thangying Chuyangheu, and Hmong 18 Council President Nao Houa Moua (representing the Hmong community), and MCFGS Chair Chen Zhou (representing the Chinese community).  The event included a Hmong Feng Shui ceremony dedicating the site for the future Hmong Plaza, with music and dancing performances by members from the Chinese and Hmong communities. 

This was followed by the Unveiling Ceremony of the 9 Art Stones, which began with Dakota drummers calling the visitors to the site of the Dakota stone, unveiled by Crystal Norcross, followed by a Dakota chant and poem by Tom LaBlanc and Dakota flute player "Dakota Blue" Peter.  This transitioned to the 1st China stone, with the unveiling by Margaret Wong and Weiming Lu (artist whose calligraphy was on the stones) and Chinese Hulusi player Huang Ningsheng, and then to the grouping of 4 China stones, with the unveiling by Caroline and Ali Hsiao Van (daughter and granddaughter of deceased C.C. Hsiao, whose calligraphy was on the stones). This transitioned to the 3 Hmong stones unveiled by Senator Foung Hawj, members of the MCFGS HAC, and Hmong 18 clans, with Hmong Qeej playing by Lang Thao. This grant helped further create an accessible and inspiring public open space that is free and open to the public at any time.  The Unveiling Ceremony was widely publicized and well-attended. Photos of the event are posted on the MCFGS website. The event honored Native, Chinese, and Hmong immigrant cultures and began conversations about healing and understanding.

On October 24, 2021 (a month after the Unveiling Event), a Chinese Feng Shui Blessing ceremony was held to bless each of the 9 Art Stones.  This was an additional event to involve the community in a cultural event directly related to the outcome of this grant.  The Feng Shui blessing for the garden today was comprised of three parts. The first part was the blessing of the land using seeds that were specially prepared with red powder and liquor. The seeds represented expansion, community awareness, and unity.  The intentions were to lay an energy grid from the 3 corners of the China Garden that would culminate at the Pavilion. The grid would be under the surface -----the seeds simply representing it on the surface.  Two Sanskrit chants were used-one about moving forward, expanding, the other about reaching potential not only in the garden but also within ourselves. Board members were a part of setting the grid.  The second part was placing individual intentions for the garden around each of 9 stones---- a stone for the Dakota stone (in the East), 1 stone with poetry that was calligraphed by Wei Ming Lu (in front of pavilion), 4 Chinese stones calligraphed by C.C. Hsiao (along path), 3 Hmong stones (in the West). The participants processed to each stone and witnessed one of the board members as they placed flower petals at the base of the stones stating their intention out loud, beginning in the East and ending in the West. Setting intentions out loud increased their meaning and created harmony.  See the attached photo collage created to memorialize this document and the intentions set. 

Joyce Hsiao, our 95-year-old MCFGS Co-Founder and wife of the deceased artist whose Chinese calligraphy appears on 4 of the Art Stones was able to have a private viewing (because of her health) after the Unveiling Event to witness first-hand the beautiful work.  She was deeply moved and very emotional to see her husband's calligraphy in the China Garden, the culmination of decades of building friendships between China and Minnesota.


Outcome of Goal #3:  We created a 4-page educational document explaining the significance of each of these 9 Art Stones as a self-guide in order deepen viewers' understanding of the China Garden and the cultural significance of is elements, particularly these 9 Art Stones.  This is available on the MCFGS website for free download, was made available to attendees at the Unveiling Ceremony, and was reproduced and is posted on the west side of the donor wall at the east entrance to the China Garden.  We also created a document explaining the use of two Hmong dialects for this project, Green/Blue Hmong and White Hmong.  This document is posted at the entrance of the China Garden and will further educate visitors about this aspect of the Hmong culture represented in these Hmong stones.  This document is also posted on the MCFGS website for free download.  See attached document. 

Immediately after the Unveiling Ceremony, we also hosted the MCFGS New Voices Poetry Contest, which featured the 5 winners of MCFGS's 1st multi-language poetry contest.  There were four language categories (Chinese, Hmong, Dakota, and English; youth and/or adult).  MCFGS enlisted native language speakers from each of these 4 languages to be Judges for the contest.  Each winner was introduced and read their poem for everyone to enjoy.  The names of the poetry winners and judges can be found on the MCFGS website.  MCFGS issues press releases in advance of the event, and articles about the event was covered by China Insight, a local Hmong newspaper, and a Chinese social media platform after the event.

Recipient Board Members
Bill Zajicek, Chen Zhou, Ken Lau, Linda Mealey-Lohmann, Brian Hammer, Stuart Knappmiller, Christina Deng Morrison, Romi Slowiak, Pa V Thao, Ali Van, Moua Wang-Yu Vu, Mary Warpeha, Xuejiao (Joanie) Zhang
Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society
Administered By
Administered by

987 Ivy Avenue East
St. Paul, MN 55106

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