Gardens of Suzhou, Suzhou
Under the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), at a time when the city was experiencing an unprecedented flourishing, there were no less than 271 gardens here. In the 20th C many parks were left neglected and today there remain only about a dozen gardens. They were replicas of landscapes with mountains, trees and flowers, to which were added towers and pavilions.Recently an effort has been made to restore them.The one-acre Garden of Harmony (Yiyuan), situated in the city center in Renmin Lu, offers the visitor enchanting scenery which seems to change with every step. These grounds were the private property of the Chancellor Wu Kuan during the Ming period (1368-1644), and were referred to as the ''Daguan Yuan'' in the famous novel ''The Dream of the Red Room''. Towards the end of the 19th C the gardens were re-laid by a government official in accordance with the plans of a well-known artist, incorporating features from other gardens. A pathway divides the garden.
Opening hours: 8am-5:30pm
Garden of Lingering
The 3ha/7acre Garden of Lingering (Liuyuan) in the west of the city was laid out by a Mr Liu in 1800 on the site of a park of the Ming period (1368-1644); it is joined to the neighboring West Gardens. With the Garden of the Humble Administrator, the Summer Palace in Beijing and the Imperial residence in Changde it enjoys special protection as one of the most famous garden complexes of China.The garden is certainly the most beautiful in Suzhou. It boasts a pool, several buildings, a man-made hill and a grove of peach trees. Particularly impressive is the pool with its surrounding pavilions and hills. Across the water leads a covered pathway on the walls of which hang over three hundred stone tablets engraved with old characters.Also noteworthy are the delightful carvings in the Yuanyang and Wufengxian Halls.A peculiarity is the Cloud-high Summit (Guanyun Fen), a 7m/22ft high Taihu stone.
Garden of the Canglangting Pavilion
The Garden of the Canglangting Pavilion, also situated in the south of the city, is one of the oldest in China. Even in the middle of the 10th C it surrounded a general's villa. A century later a famous poet bought the villa and had a pavilion built in the garden. He gave it the poetic name Pavilion of the Azure Waves. Between the 13th and 14th centuries the estate served as a Buddhist monastery; during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) it reverted to private ownership. Owing to Buddhist influence the two-acre garden offers some features of special interest which distinguish it from other gardens in the city. These include a low surrounding wall with large openings, and a double arcade connecting the inner and outer sections. In the middle of the grounds is an artificial hill on which stands the Pavilion of the Azure Waves.
Garden of the Master of the Nets
The Garden of the Master of the Nets (Wangshiyuan) is situated in the south of the city near the modern Suzhou hotel. In 1140 the chief of the imperial chronicler's office, whose nickname was ''Master of the Nets'', had a residence built here. This garden, known particularly for its scenic beauty and variety, also incorporates several buildings.
The Lion Grove (Shizilin) to the north of Suzhou is famed for its man-made hills formed from the unusual Taihu stone (limestone from the Taihu Lake). It was laid out in 1350 in a temple area, and is one of the most famous old gardens in the city.The garden's name derives from the largest rock, the shape of which is reminiscent of a lion.
Divided into three sections, the Garden of the Politics of the Humble Man was formed on the former site of a Buddhist monastery. The garden appears to be floating on water due the many pools throughout.
The West Garden (Xiyuan) lies to the west of the Garden of Mr Liu, with which it was originally connected. In the 16th C the park was the private property of a high official of the imperial court. Following his death his son converted the site into a Buddhist monastery. In 1860 the garden was destroyed in the war, although it was re-laid only a few years later.Among the numerous buildings, the Luohan Hall (Luohan Tang) is particularly impressive, it houses over 500 gilded statues of Buddhist saints, and a statue of the thousand-armed goddess of mercy carved from the stump of a camphor tree.
Map of Suzhou Attractions