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Ancient Places / Trip Ideas

Classical gardens of Suzhou

By Dianshi Yuan

September 7

Suzhou’s classical gardens embody the sophistication of east Yangtze traditional architecture, which aims for harmony between a structure and the natural environment that surrounds it.

Suzhou’s classical gardens embody the sophistication of east Yangtze traditional architecture, which aims for harmony between a structure and the natural environment that surrounds it.

The Classical Gardens of Suzhou, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, integrate Chinese architectural aesthetics with nature. Going back to the Spring and Autumn Period when the king of Wu built private houses on the site, construction of the gardens began in the 10th century BC and reached its peak during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The gardens were inspired by traditional Chinese craftsmanship and Chinese paintings, in which water, rocks, and flowers are prominent themes. Today, there are more than 60 preserved gardens in Suzhou — all of them designated as protected National Heritage Sites.

Humble Administrator’s Garden 拙政园

The Humble Administrator’s Garden [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Tongchao Sun]
The Humble Administrator’s Garden [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Tongchao Sun]
The Humble Administrator’s Garden is one of the Four Classical Gardens in Suzhou. Covering a vast area of 51950 square meters, the garden boasts 48 different buildings, numerous pagodas and bridges with scattered pools and islands. Having served as a private residence when it was completed, the garden was renamed the Humble Administrator’s Garden by Wang Xiancheng, an official in the Ming Dynasty. His friend Wen Zhengming, a leading artist and poet, assisted in designing the garden. Cao Xueqin, author of the Dream of the Red Chamber, is supposed to have spent his adolescent life in the garden. Chinese scholars believed that much of the garden in his novel was inspired by the scenery of the Humble Administrator’s Garden.

Address: 178 Dongbei Street

Entry: 90RMB

Opening hours: 07:30 – 17:30

Lingering Garden 留园

Autumn in Lingering Garden [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Jiankang Wang]
Autumn in Lingering Garden [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Jiankang Wang]
Lingering Garden, occupying an area of 23,300 square meters, is famous for the beauty of its temples and halls, which were built in a characteristic Qing style.

Address: 338 Liuyuan Road

Entry: April – October 55RMB

November – March 45RMB

Opening Hours: 07:30 – 17:00

Lion Grove Garden 狮子林

The Lion Grove Garden [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/ Shaomin Liu]
The Lion Grove Garden [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/ Shaomin Liu]
The Lion Grove Garden was built in 1342 during the Yuan Dynasty by a Zen Buddhist monk, Wen Tianru, in memory of his teacher Monk Zhongfeng. The Lion Grove Garden, named after its rocks, which supposedly look like lions. The garden has a pagoda complex and a rock maze at its center. Many of its pavilions and halls reference Buddhist stories through their architecture.

Address: 23 Yuanlin Road, Pingjiang District

Entry: busy season 40RMB/ off-season 30RMB

Opening Hours: March 1 – Oct. 15 9:30-16:30

March 16 – Feb. 28 10:00-16:00

Canglang Pavilion 沧浪亭

The Canglang Pavilion [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Shaomin Liu]
The Canglang Pavilion [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Shaomin Liu]
The Canglang Pavilion, located in the southern part of Suzhou, is the oldest of the Suzhou gardens and can be traced back to the Northern Song Dynasty. Keeping its original Song dynasty layout, Canglang Pavilion has famous scenic spots including Mountain-Watching Building (看山楼), Water Veranda (面水轩), Mingdao Hall (明道堂) and Fragrance House (清香馆). However, the Bamboo House (翠玲珑) is definitely the highlight, with its play of bamboo grove.

Address: 3 Canglangting Street

Entry: busy season 20RMB/ off-season 15RMB

Opening Hours: 7:30 – 17:30

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