Healing Through “Qi” and “Earth”: The Gardens of Panzhou Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital

Sandy Garden, photo by Jing studio

Project Brief

The design team first analyzed the functional relationships among the hospital’s building clusters then worked to connect its landscape nodes in support of pedestrian flow. The team aimed to create a design representing the harmony between nature and humans through three strategies: 1) creating a practical and humanistic environment based on the relationship among building clusters; 2) establishing interactions between humans and nature in each garden; and 3) using native materials, including rusty rock slabs, rubble, crushed stones, and scenery stones, to tie in the local landscape. The design further incorporated Chinese medicinal concepts by using herbal plants and abstracting acupuncture and moxibustion as landscape elements.

Project Overview

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is founded upon a philosophical understanding of the universe and the harmony between humans and nature.  The holistic concept and dialectical clinical thinking of Chinese medicine are gradually gaining worldwide recognition in their emphasis on natural healing, with “Qi” and “Earth” as its essential medium. While “Qi” is the primary material that constitutes all that exists within the universe, “Earth” is the environment in which the universe is located.  

These concepts of “Qi” and “Earth” were carefully embedded within the landscape design of Panzhou Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital. Located one kilometer from the central area of the historical Panzhou Old Town, Panzhou TCM Hospital is one of China’s most prevalent urban TCM health centers. Its landscape design team aimed to satisfy the hospital’s functional needs and elevate its healing potential through the creation of modern therapeutic spaces for patients and healthcare workers to rest, relax, and meditate in. Understanding the effects of environmental factors on the human body, the project team utilized local materials to produce a design adapted to plant growth and seasonal changes.

Sandy Garden, photo by Jing studio

Background and design challenges

Prior to the establishment of Panzhou TCM Hospital, Panzhou Old City had only one health center that was unable to provide for its population of 200,000 people. The lack of healthcare services resulted in the emergency need for constructing a new hospital that could provide medical resources as well as therapeutic gardens. The massive, newly developed structure of the Panzhou TCM Hospital, however, left disconnected and fragmented green spaces throughout the site. The project team was therefore commissioned to increase the accessibility and connectivity of the hospital’s green spaces under the challenge of the site’s drastic elevation differences.


 A newly designed entrance ladder garden, courtyard garden and sky terrace garden now form a series of landscape nodes connecting the hospital’s separate buildings while providing outdoor spaces for healthcare workers and patients to enjoy nature.

Sky Terrace Garden, photo by Jing studio

To solve the ten-meter elevation difference in front of the outpatient building, the project team integrated ADA ramps and terraced planting beds into the entrance ladder garden, turning it into an attractive open green space for rest and communication. The Stone Garden, a patio enclosed by the outpatient and medical technology buildings offers a quiet and peaceful area in which visitors and workers can experience nature’s healing power and enjoy the trees’ subtle shadow changes throughout the day.

Stone Garden, photo by Jing studio

The Sandy Garden, the largest green space on site, introduces a sense of wilderness through the design of a low-maintenance, mixed wood forest and the use of local materials to convey the beauty of natural growth.

Sandy Garden, photo by Jing studio

In direct contrast, the Wind Garden offers well-maintained lawns, trees, and flower-bordered social areas. The array of lamp posts in the center of the Light Garden serves as an abstract representation of traditional elements of Chinese medicine, “acupuncture and moxibustion.”

Light Garden, photo by Jing studio

Five terrace gardens located around the Medical Technology and Sanatorium buildings are designed with lush local plants and wooden benches to provide alternative places for patients and staff to engage with nature.

Terrace Garden, photo by Jing studio
Terrace Garden, photo by Jing studio

Social Service

As one of China’s most important traditional cultural symbols, TCM embodies the nation’s long-standing concept and practical experience of health preservation. Through its interpretation of TCM core elements “Qi” and “Earth,” the design team created a therapeutic landscape, providing a brand-new series of healing spaces for Panzhou residents while conveying Chinese philosophy and traditions to the world.

Master Plan
Detail Design
Detail Design

Healing Through “Qi” and “Earth”: The Gardens of Panzhou Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital

Landscape Architect: Mind Studio 

Completion Year: 2020

Gross Built Area: 32600㎡

Location: Panzhou City, Guizhou Province, China

Program: Hospital Landscape design

Project Leaders: Jun JIANG, Xiue YANG, Nanfei YOU

Design Team: Hanhan TIAN, Tinghuan DENG, Xin LIU, Esther ZHOU, Lanlan LI, Rui REN, Wei CHEN, Jiayong JIANG, Hongsheng CHEN

Photographer: JING Studio, Mind Studio

About Terren Shi 116 Articles
Terren is an emerging graduate landscape architect with a passion for design theory and history. She holds a Bachelor of Design and a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Melbourne, which she completed in 2020 and 2022 respectively. Currently, Terren works as a sessional tutor at the Melbourne School of Design. She also contributes interviews and essays on landscape architecture and design.