University of Minnesota Alumni Association

Alumni Stories

A bit of China in St. Paul

Thanks to a group of alumni, Phalen Regional Park has a new pavilion.

Last November, the new Xiang Jiang Pavilion was officially unveiled at Phalen Regional Park in St. Paul. The enormous, double-roofed replica of China’s 18th century Aiwan Pavilion was a gift from St. Paul’s sister city Changsha, capital of Hunan province. The effort to build the pavilion was launched by the Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society, the president of which is Linda Mealey-Lohmann (B.A. ’81, M.A. ’86, J.D. ’90).

Linda Mealey-Lohmann (far left) and Mary Warpeha (far right)
Courtesy Mealey-Lohmann

The idea for a pavilion first came about in 2005, at a board meeting for the US-China Peoples Friendship Association, Minnesota chapter. “A board member said there are five Japanese gardens in Minnesota, but no Chinese gardens,” says Mealey-Lohmann. “I love gardens and Chinese culture so I said, ‘Let’s remedy that.’” (The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum opened a Chinese garden in 2017.)

Other U alumni lent their support to the project, including Barbara Harrison (A.A. ’74, A.L.A. ’74, B.A. ’02), Mary Warpeha (B.A. ’68), and, more recently, Weiming Lu (M.S. ’54).

Interest picked up once organizers made a connection between Changsha and the local Hmong community, many of whom claim the city as their ancestral home. The garden was added to the Phalen Regional Park master plan in 2011; in 2015 then-St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman traveled to Changsa. 

The pavilion itself is a gift from the people of Changsha, who sent engineers to St. Paul to assemble it. Mealey-Lohmann says more additions to the site are planned, including an entrance arch, a lakeside pavilion, and a Hmong Cultural Plaza. “We hope the pavilion and the Hmong Heritage Wall will become a venue for all kinds of cultural activities for the Hmong community and Chinese community,” she says. A grand opening is scheduled for July. 

Read More