Bristol Chinese Herb Garden

About the garden

The teaching garden at the Chinese Herb Garden was opened on July 3rd 2010. It has been the culmination of 10 years collecting and construction. The event also marked the opening of the ‘Pavilion of New Horizons'. We were honoured that the minister attaché for science Chen Fu Tao from the Chinese Embassy cut the ribbon. Also present was Colin Smith, mayor of Bristol, who is the chairman of the Bristol Guangzhou Partnership. Professor Len Hall, University of Bristol pro-vice-chancellor, gave an opening address to welcome the guests and outline the many research links which already exist with Chinese universities. This was followed by Prof. Simon Hiscock, Scientific Director of the Botanic Gardens, who expressed interest in developing links with Guangzhou Botanic Gardens. The garden also has an official collaboration agreement with Nanjing Botanic Gardens.

Uses of the Teaching Garden

Now that the teaching garden is operational, we can start to use it in several different areas.


There are two distinct levels of education being developed in the teaching garden:

1) Public
The Botanic Garden is visited by 10,000 members of the public annually. Public interpretation boards are now in place. These bear the logos of the RCHM and University of Bristol to signify the close partnership. The first board states the overall aims and history of the garden since starting in 2000.

A second board shows the layout of the teaching garden and attempts to elucidate the principles of yin and yang and the classification system for Chinese herbal medicine.

2) Undergraduate
The Dispensary and Pharmacognosy module is now embedded into 4 Chinese herb teaching colleges in the UK and Ireland and gives students contact with the plants and their processing and identification. It requires specialist facilities and teaching material not available in most colleges. The course is also open to practising herbalists as part of their CPD training.

A detailed Handbook has been written tailored for this course.

The Chinese Herb Garden is unique in Europe as a teaching base. It will take some time to enlarge this base. A dedicated teaching room has now been finished with the latest in digital 3D whiteboard technology to assist with the teaching of live plant material. If you would like to use these facilities for your teaching then contact the RCHM office.

Visiting students from The China Medical University also found many interesting species which do not grow easily in Taiwan


The garden is developing a research programme which can be carried out by college students in their MSc year at the colleges.

This currently focuses on issues relating to herb supply and pharmacognosy. There is also a growing interest in comparisons between Chinese and European herbs which share the same species or genus. The University of Bristol is not currently engaged in research using the garden but are becoming aware that there is potential for biochemical, taxonomic and ethnobotanical education and research using this living pharmacy.

In 2016 we planted a display of herbs currently being used in ethnopharmacology research in the UK in the field of antimicrobial resistance.


There is ample opportunity for PR in the garden and considerable publicity for the garden on the open day from local TV, radio and newspapers. It is only the start as the garden becomes known. Promotion of the garden and hence the RCHM is being carefully handled by both the RCHM and University PR department and they are beginning to work closely together. Conservation is also built into the PR programme. By enlarging attention from the strictly medical use onto the plants themselves, you can reach a whole new audience and news stories. We are a nation of gardeners and many Chinese herbs are also well-known garden plants.


The RCHM are developing a series of video resources to educate and inform on issues surrounding various aspects of Chinese Herbal Medicine. For more information see Online Resources