Couple donates $2 million for Chinese Garden work at Huntington

A former San Marino couple has donated $2 million for the second-phase construction of the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

The donation by Judy Yin Shih and Joel Axelrod, who now live in Oregon, will fund the Clear and Transcendent Pavilion, a traditional Chinese structure, which will be at the edge of the lake on the garden’s undeveloped north side, Huntington officials announced.

In a statement, Shih cited her experience as a Huntington docent in 2008 as helping to inspire the gift.


“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,” she said. “I found a place where I can let my own garden grow.”

The 1,129-square-foot pavilion will serve as an outdoor performance space for presentations of Chinese music and dance, according to Huntington officials.

Work on the pavilion is expected to begin this fall and will feature elaborate woodcarving, roof tiles and stonework from the Suzhou Institute of Landscape Architectural Design in China.

The construction for the performance space has also received more than $3.5 million from donors in China and the United States. Funding is still being sought for structures, such as a boat-shaped pavilion, a hillside-viewing pavilion and a terraced courtyard.

The first phase of the project cost $18.3 million and was funded by more than 350 local and international donors, according to the Huntington.