Moon Gates

My blogoversary (a 'new word ') passed and I didn't notice... So in the spirit of belated celebration, I am reprinting one of the very first blog posts I wrote. 

Two evenings ago, driving along a road in open farm country, I watched as the January full moon rose over a snowy landscape. The large white disc shining brightly in a liquid gray sky was spectacular!

I now understand why animals howl at the moon - it must be a sympathetic show of appreciation and awe...

The grandeur of the full moon made me reflect on moon gates, the traditional Chinese circular entryways that lead into contained gardens and cities.

The rounded opening alludes to the full moon and the Chinese adage that says, 'Flowers are more beautiful when the moon is full.'

Stepping through a round portal is symbolic of many things. Like our entrance into this world, it is an enveloping opening that calls to us to see what is on the other side. This sort of entry speaks to us of mystery and delight.

It is not a soaring Calatrava-like bridge or ornamented portico,  a moon gate beckons quietly, saying 'come see for yourself..."

Naumkeag, photo by Jan Johnsen

One of the most lovely moon gates that I have had the pleasure to step through is the gate in the Chinese garden at Naumkeag in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Naumkeag is a shingle-style 'country house' estate designed by noted architect Stanford White in 1885. As all Gilded Age homes, it is filled with finery and art, but, to me, it is the gardens that make this public attraction memorable.

Sitting on 8 acres of landscaped grounds surrounded by 40 acres of woodland, meadow, and pasture, the property was originally designed by Nathan Barrett then expanded by noted landscape designer, Fletcher Steele (what a great name!) between 1926 and 1956.

The moon gate is part of Steele's Chinese Garden (1936-1956) and was added as the last piece of the puzzle in 1956.

The most wonderful aspect of this particular moon gate is the masonry. The wall, of which it is a part, is built from dark red brick and gray fieldstone. The gate itself is brick topped with lovely brickwork and a wooden roof.

The masonry is quite different from traditional Chinese moon gates which are often fashioned from smooth stucco or finished stone. Here, the large round gate fits in with the native plants of this region perfectly and does not look ersatz or slightly out of place as so many Chinese gardens appear to be in my part of the world.

Btw, it is said that a moon gate brings good luck to all who pass through it so, with that, a summer visit to the Berkshire Mountains and the stunning Naumkeag may be just what you require! This photo below is taken from the Naumkeag official website:


  1. Happy Blogoversary! I love your blog and all that you share in it! Oh how I wish I had room for a moon gate!


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