THE PEONY pavilion gifted to Stratford by the Chinese city of Fuzhou has been officially unveiled.
The seven metre high structure was built by Chinese craftsmen in Firs Garden in Grove Road last month.
It marks the friendship developed during a project to build a cultural park in Fuzhou, which will include a replica of Shakespeare’s Birthplace and other local landmarks.
The park, called San Weng, also celebrates Shakespeare’s contemporary Tang Xianzu for who the pavilion is a typical symbol.
Peony Pavilion is also the name of one of the Chinese playwright’s most famous love stories, and inscribed on the structure is a summary of the tale, which was written more than 400 years ago.
Officials from China and Stratford joined townsfolk to mark the occasion last week, ahead of the Shakespeare birthday celebrations.
Stratford District Council chairman Christopher Kettle said: “We now have the remarkable pavilion to remind all who visit Stratford of this eternal link between our two cities, and just as we have this pavilion here as a gift from Fuzhou, thanks to the Birthplace Trust, we know that in China, the City of Fuzhou is recreating both Shakespeare’s Birthplace and New Place at the remarkable development of San-Weng.
“However the important message for all is that this gift of the pavilion is not the end of a four year project but merely marks the end of the first act of a great play we, the two countries of China and the UK, through Fuzhou and Stratford, are writing together, based on our shared love of the arts and culture.”
But not everybody has welcomed the new addition to the garden.
Nearby residents feared the pavilion would attract anti-social behaviour and would clash with the surroundings.
Campaigner David Curtis, while admitting he thought the structure was beautiful, said it was ‘still an issue’.
He told the Observer: “It’s not quite as out of keeping as it could have been. It has been very interesting picking up comments – a lot of people think it’s still inappropriate.
“I still think it’s an issue. I’ve spoken to a lot of people still concerned it will be a shelter for alcohol and drug abuse.
“It looks very nice at the moment but I wonder what it will look like in two years time.”
Mr Curtis confirmed he was in the process of seeking a judicial review of the decision he says was made without consultation.
He added: “The council doesn’t listen to local residents. There doesn’t seem to be any record of alternative site assessments and the council still refuses to supply capital and revenue costs. Questions still remain unanswered.
“The building itself is beautiful but it doesn’t doesn’t excuse lack of accountability and consultation.”