Oasis For Travelers
By Pamela Parks, The Door County Advocate
Gallery owners open retreat home in China.
Brian and Jeanee Linden will bring China a little closer to Door County with a library presentation that highlights the creation of the Linden Centre, also known as Xi Lin Yuan, which is in Xizhou, a village in southwest China’s Yunnan Province.
The Lindens will talk about the unique opportunity to build a retreat in a nationally protected heritage site in the foothills of the Himalayas. What they created is an oasis for travelers to be immersed in authentic Chinese culture. The Linden Centre opened in spring 2008.
“We took over a type-A relic liken to the Great Wall and were the first foreigners to do that in China,” said Brian Linden. “It is one of most pristine examples of early architecture. I felt honored to first walk into it, and now to have it as my home is incredible. And for guests, an opportunity to stay in a real dynastic relic is unheard of.”
The Linden Centre’s buildings survived the Red Guards and are near the hump for the supply route of World War II Flying Tigers.
The renovated retreat is a cross between a bed and breakfast and a villa, with 16 sophisticated guest rooms and amenities such as restaurants, a bar and Internet access. The setting is lush with temperate, spring-like weather year-round.
“It’s like a big castle sitting in the Himalayas where people can travel, stay and learn with us,” said Linden. “It is the most ideal place I have ever been.”
While China is their home seven months of the year, the Lindens calling Door County home the remaining months. In 1996, the couple opened the Linden Gallery, which features fine Asian art and antiques. The gallery was a chance for the couple to develop roots in the United States when their first son was expected.
The Lindens have explored the Chinese countryside and cities since the early 1980s, as students. Their travels now take them and their two sons on regular visits to neighboring Asian countries as well, including Korea, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Creating the cultural haven of the Linden Centre was a slow process that ventured into many unknowns for both the Lindens and the Chinese government. It took more than four years for the Lindens to gain access to the structure and begin the renovation — creating a rare opportunity for the foreigners.
“This is the first fully foreign-owned enterprise — quite unique in China — without it being a joint venture,” said Linden, who added that international interest in their business model is growing.
“Working in China has been an incredible experience,” said Linden. “We hope the Linden Centre can be an example of how China can be a place we can grow to learn more about.”
Currently, the Linden Centre offers workshops in painting, photography and culinary arts.
Linden hopes to expand course offerings to include writing workshops; local culture, including religion; textiles; and the indigenous teas, wines and coffees of the region.
A Plein Air painting tour will be held in October, and a two-week cooking tour with Savory Spoon of Ellison Bay will take place in November.