If you’ve driven through Chinatown in Marysville the last couple years, you may have noticed a concrete garden slowly growing on a lot at 1st and C Streets.  

The space, planned to be finished by the end of this year, will be the Chen Ling Chinese garden, a space for meditation designed by Larry Bird, president of the Friends of Marysville Bok Kai Temple and Historic Chinatown, a group working to preserve historic Chinatown in Marysville.  

Hand-etched by Bird into the concrete, the design centers around a mythical bird called a phoenix with various symbols interwoven into the creature’s body. Bird uses a technique called dowsing to manifest the intricate images. 

“I’m matching what is down below in the red clay,” Bird said.

Dowsing is a type of divination using thin metal rods to attempt to find objects buried underground like metals, ores, gravesites and gemstones without the use of a scientific apparatus.

The goal, Bird said, is to turn the once-empty lot into a meditative space where people can walk along the concrete path or sit on benches in front of the “Bok Kai Daydream” mural painted by Ronald E. Slater of Smartsville in 2015. 

Bird, 76 is a member of the American Society of Dowsers and said there are symbols his dowsing rods can detect underground, which he then sketches into the wet concrete to make designs.

“We’re fulfilling and bringing forth history that’s been buried,” Bird said.  

It’s a slow process as Bird and fellow Friends of Marysville Bok Kai Temple and Historic Chinatown member Richard Ow pour concrete section-by-section, sketching the designs as they go. Bird said he aims to finish pouring concrete by the end of October and be open by the end of the year.

“There’s a plan to make it a full garden,” Bird said listing uses for the garden ranging from meditation to hosting wedding receptions.  

In the meantime, Bird said that anyone is welcome to come out and see the progression of the space.

“If they want to stop in and just see what we’re doing they’re welcome,” Bird said.

Recommended for you