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The Southeast's Asia

Staying put for the Beijing Olympics? You're not too far from art, animals, activities and events from or inspired by the Far East.

John Bordsen, Travel Editor
jbordsen@charlotteobserver.com

Art

Boone: The Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University is showing “Dancing With the Dragon: Contemporary Art from Beijing,” through Oct. 4. The exhibition explores recent work created in China. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Friday. Admission: free. Details: 828-262-3017; www.tcva.org,

Chapel Hill: UNC Chapel Hill's Ackland Art Museum holds one of the largest and most significant collections of Asian art in the Southeast. On display – in two permanent galleries – are Indian religious sculpture, a Thai head of Buddha, Japanese tea bowls, Chinese earthenware pots from 500 B.C. and Japanese scrolls. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 11.-5 p.m. Sunday. Open until 9 p.m. the second Friday of the month. Admission: free. Details: 919-966-5736; www.ackland.org.

Durham: Duke University owns an enormous cache of photos of historic China. The Sidney D. Gamble Photograph Collection has about 5,000 images taken between 1917 and 1932 – a tumultuous time after the collapse of imperial China and while the country was beset by warlords and political upheaval. Gamble, an heir to the Procter & Gamble soap fortune, was a sociologist, China scholar and photography buff. Duke recently placed Gamble's images on the Internet. See them at http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/gamble.

Wilmington: The Cameron Art Museum's artist-in-residence is renowned potter and sculptor Hiroshi Sueyoshi, a native of Tokyo. Sueyoshi works and teaches in the adjoining Clay Studio, which you're welcome to visit when a class is not in progress. 3201 S. 17th St. Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday (until 9 p.m. Thursdays). Admission: $8; $5 for students with valid ID; $3 for ages 2-12. Details: 910-395-5999; www.cameronartmuseum.com.

Gardens

Asheville: N.C. Arboretum, 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way. The bonsai garden focuses on plants indigenous to the Southern Appalachians, but they're pruned and groomed in the Japanese bonsai technique and kept miniature. More than 100 live bonsai plants are in the collection. The facility is southwest of downtown. Admission: $6 per car; free on Tuesdays. Hours: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. through October; shorter hours fall-spring. Details: 828-665-2492; www.ncarboretum.org.

Belmont: AtDaniel Stowe Botanical Garden, 6500 S. New Hope Road, the Orchid Conservatory displays tropical plants with a focus on orchids, many of which have Asian origins. “In Asian culture, orchids have a significance that goes back to the time of Confucius,” according to Jim Hoffman, Stowe's marketing director. There are about 3,000 in the collection. Because of climate control, some orchids are in bloom year-round. Admission: $10; $5 for ages 4-12. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Details: 704-825-4490; www.dsbg.org.

Chapel Hill: N.C. Botanical Garden (Coker Arboretum), Country Club Road and Raleigh Street in the middle of the UNC campus. William Coker, the university's first professor of botany, began work on the gardens in 1903, and in the 1920s expanded into East Asian trees and shrubs. It's a strolling-and-sitting garden. Some unusual trees include the Chinese fringe tree, Chinese pistachio and Japanese plum yew. Hours: Dawn-dusk daily. Details: 919-962-0522; www.ncbg.unc.edu/pages/38.

Clyde: The 85-acre campus arboretum of Haywood Community College has a small Oriental garden with reed grass, Japanese maple and a meditation pond. Free. Hours: dawn-dusk daily. Details: 828-6565-4135.

Durham: Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 426 Anderson St. (on the Duke University campus). The William L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum is 18 acres – one of five theme gardens at the site – devoted to plants of eastern Asia (there are several thousand specimens). See tree peonies, daylilies, gingko and mulberry trees. Also here: stone lanterns and water basins, some imported from Japan – plus a Japanese tea house. A Japanese garden and a Chinese woodland garden are in the works. Free. 8 a.m.-dusk daily. Details: 919-684-3698; www.sarahpdukegardens.org.

Newberry, S.C.: Wells Japanese Garden, on Lindsay Street, features lotus, Japanese iris, water lilies and other plants, plus two ponds, concrete Japanese-inspired bridges, a torii (a Japanese ceremonial arch) and a teahouse in which you can have a picnic. Some construction work is underway. Details: 803-321-1015.

Raleigh: J.C. Raulston Arboretum at N.C. State University, 4415 Beryl Road (across from the N.C. State Fairgrounds).The Japanese Garden has Japanese crape myrtle, spreading Japanese maple, upright Japanese maple, dwarf Hinoki false cypress, bamboo, etc. Enter by crossing a traditional wooden bridge – a zigzag pattern, to keep out evil spirits – and pass through plantings to reach enclosed Zen garden of contemplation. Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily through October (shorter hours fall-spring). Free. Details: 919-515-3132; www.ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum.

Richmond, Va.: Maymount Park Gardens, 2201 Shields Lake Drive (in Byrd Park). The well-tended Japanese gardens hold numerous koi ponds (Oriental-style goldfish/carp pools) and a large waterfall. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission: $5 suggested donation. Details: 804-358-7166; www.maymont.org.

Savannah, Ga.: Bamboo Farm and Coastal Gardens, 2 Canebrake Road. What's now a 52-acre experimental station and garden began in 1890 with a donation of three giant Japanese bamboo plants. Once operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it has been part of the University of Georgia's Ag department since 1979. The all-Asia collections include 154 types of bamboo – plus lotus and palms. Also here: a water garden. Free. Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Details: 912-921-5460; www.ugaextension.com/bamboo.

Sumter, S.C.: Swan Lake Iris Gardens, 822 W. Liberty St. (U.S. 763). The huge, May/June-blooming collection of Japanese iris shares the site with a lake stocked with all eight species of swans, including those native to Asia. Other floral attractions include Japanese magnolias. Free. Hours: 7:30 a.m.-dusk daily. Details: 803-436-2640.

Wilmington: The Arboretum of New Hanover County, 6206 Oleander Drive, includes a Japanese Garden and tea house. Many of its plants are native to Asia; the emphasis is on foliage, texture and form rather than flowers. Enter the garden through a torii (ornamental Japanese gate); stone, water and plants to arranged create a peaceful atmosphere. Pools on both ends of the garden are connected by a stone-lined stream. The tea house is next to one pool. Free. Hours: Sun-up to sundown daily. Details: 910-798-7660; www.gardeningnhc.org.

Winston-Salem: Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University. Its Greenhouse Gardens holdings include Japanese cedar trees and Japanese weeping cherry trees. Also on the ground: Asian-style tea houses. Hours: grounds open daylight, year-round; greenhouse open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Admission: free. Details: 336-758-5593; www.reynoldagardens.org.

Animals

Columbia, S.C.: Riverbanks Zoo has three Amur tigers, native to the area around the Amur River, which divides the Chinese province of Manchuria from Russia's Siberia. Large and impressive Asian reptiles here include king cobras, Tomistoma crocodiles and reticulated pythons. An Asian exhibit in the birdhouse includes hornbills and Bali mynahs. Admission: $9.75; $7.25 for ages 3-12. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily; until 6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday through October. Details: 803-779-8717; www.riverbanks.org.

Greensboro: Natural Science Center & Animal Discovery has Siberian tigers plus large blue-tongued skinks from Southeast Asia. Admission: $8; $7 for 12 and younger. Details: 336-288-3769; www.natsci.org.

Knoxville, Tenn.: Knoxville Zoo, 3500 Knoxville Zoo Drive. You'll find snow leopards and red pandas from the Himalayas, an Indonesian tiger, gibbons and reptiles, including a Burmese star tortoise. Admission: $16.95; $12.95 for ages 2-12. Hours: 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (shorter weekday hours fall-spring). Details: 865-637-5331; www.knoxville-zoo.org.

Socastee, S.C. Waccatee Zoological Farm, 8500 Enterprise Road, has a pair of yaks, Yakie and Jackie. This attraction in Horry County also has a herd of sika deer (larger than American deer; native to Manchuria, in northeast China) and Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs. Admission: $8; $4 for 12 and younger. Hours: 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; closes at 5:30 p.m. fall-spring. Details: 843-650-8500; www.waccateezoo.com.

See & Do

Places

Asheville: Downtown Asheville has many antiques stores and stores that sell imported crafts and curios. Himalayas Import – at 6 Battery Park Ave., at the corner of Wall Street – specializes in art, handicrafts, jewelry and antiques from Tibet and Nepal. The selection is good, but just as compelling is how many of the little brass Buddhas and other items are displayed – on top of centuries-old Tibetan cabinets. The owners are from Nepal, where they return several times a year to procure inventory. Hours: 10 a.m.-7, Monday-Thursday, to 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. You can pick up a trinket for $10 or an antique for $9,000. Details: 828-225-0506; www.himalayasimport.com.

Bryson City: Falling Waters Adventure Resort has 22 acres in the Nantahala Gorge, where there are eight yurts – Mongolian tents – you can rent. There are furniture, beds and CD players inside these “tent cabins” (with a shared hot tub) in a hollow about a quarter mile from U.S. 74 and not far from the Falling Waters check-in. The cost: $81 per night for up to four people. Linen and towels provided. Reservations recommended; peak season is fall, especially weekends. Details: 877-247-5535; www.fallingwatersresort.com.

Floyd, Va.: Blue Ridge Yurts is a women-owned business that makes and sells U.S. versions of yurts – Mongolian tents. Modern materials are used, says co-owner Kathy Anderson. “It's not felted animal wool covering the wooden frame. We use architectural fabrics used for tents and awnings.” Blue Ridge yurts range in diameter from 16 feet (200 square feet of floor space) to 30 feet (enough room to sleep 40-50 people). Cost: $5,800-$10,350. Who buys them? “All kinds of people,” says Anderson. “One customer uses a yurt as a retail outlet; some are bought by yoga and massage people; a martial-arts instructor bought one. Also, people who want something substantial – you can put a kitchen and bathroom in a yurt – that doesn't leave a big ‘footprint.'” The one BRY uses at its business site (between Floyd and the Blue Ridge Parkway) has air conditioning. Details: 540-745-7458; www.blueridgeyurts.com.

Outer Banks: Kitty Hawk Kites, with 13 stores on the Outer Banks from Corolla to Ocracoke, is perhaps the biggest-kite retailer on the East Coast. “Most of our kites are imported from the Orient,” according to Wes Gutekunst, KHK marketing director. Five or 10 of the 20 types available are of East Asian design. Of particular note is a diamond-shaped kite ($17.99) bearing an Oriental print. Also, a dragon-style kite with a long, flowing tail $15.99). Store information: www.kittyhawk.com.

Wadmalaw Island, S.C.: Charleston Tea Plantation, 6617 Maybank Highway. In 1799, French botanist Andre Michaux had the idea of bringing tea farming to the Lowcountry. He planted Chinese tea roots at Middleton Place, just north of Charleston. The experiment didn't get too far; the emergence of King Cotton put a damper on tea, rice, indigo and other crops. But some tea shrubs at Middleton did survive. In the 1960s, Lipton Tea established a test tea farm southwest of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island. It's owned by Bigelow now. America's only working tea plantation is home of American Classic Tea and is a 127-acre plantation harvesting more than 150,000 tea bushes. Free tours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday. Details: 843-559-0383; www.bigelowtea.com/act.

Events

Raleigh: 23rd annual International Festival, held in September at the Raleigh Convention Center (2 E. South St.), offers food, crafts and entertainment. Main-stage ethnic performances in 2007 included those by organizations/groups representing China (two), Nepal, Japan and South Korea. This year's dates: 5-10 p.m. Sept. 5, 10 a.m.-10-p.m. Sept. 6. Details: www.internationalfestival.org.

Fayetteville: International Folk Festival, Sept. 26-28. Three-day event includes East Asian events and art plus authentic food and entertainment. Details: 910-323-1776; www.theartscouncil.com (click “Programs and Services”).

Oriental: On Pamlico Sound, this town is literally one of North Carolina's most “far eastern” communities. It celebrates its name and location with a “Chinese” New Year celebration on Dec. 31 with a “Running of the Dragon” – with participants wearing and parading a giant dragon head with a long body. Details: 252-249-0555; www.townoforiental.com. The next Chinese New Year – beginning the Year of the Ox – is Jan. 26, 2009. It follows the current Year of the Rat.

Raleigh: Triangle Area Chinese American Society holds a Chinese New Year Festival in January at the N.C. State Fairgrounds Expo Center.

Charlotte: The Dragonboat Festival, featuring dragon-boat races and other events celebrating Asian culture, is held at Ramsey Creek Park in Cornelius in June. Details: www.charlottedragonboat.com.

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