Just west of Shanghai, in Jiangsu Province of East China, Suzhou is a historic city best known for its intricate canal system, beautifully designed bridges, and UNESCO-designated classical gardens. Affectionately known as the “Venice of China,” Suzhou is a city comprised of neighbourhoods with different characteristics. Many represent different eras of Suzhou’s 2,500 year history.
The classical gardens in Suzhou were first inspired by the royal hunting gardens built by the Kings of the State of Wu. They had symbolic significance to ancient Chinese intellectuals who believed in the importance of an aesthetic urbanity. The classical gardens were designed within a single residence and included an intricate pathway incorporating elements such as water, stones, and plants. Imbued with poetic significance, they are an artificial manifestation of the profound metaphysical importance of natural beauty. Chinese intellectuals believed the gardens, through their artistic perfection and their meditative nature, were designed to cultivate an even temperament.
Traditional garden techniques, which have helped to preserve the historic conditional of these heritage sites, were handed down through generations. The gardens are meticulously tended with minimum intervention to help promote plant growth. The Chinese classical garden played an influential role in landscape design around the world. Today, more than fifty classical gardens exist in Suzhou.
Humble Administrator’s Garden
Suzhou has several historic gardens that were designed in the 11th to 19th century. Dating back to 1509, Humble Administrators Garden is the largest in Suzhou, and is considered one of the best examples of Chinese landscape design.
Master of Nets Garden
The Master of Nets is the smallest of the classical gardens in Suzhou. In the evenings, the garden transforms into an impressive stage for Kun Opera performances. This garden was also the inspiration for the classical garden in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Lion Grove Garden
The Lion Grove Garden is a multi-story rock maze that rises nearly 23 feet into the air. The labyrinthine stone in the garden is primarily limestone from Taihu Lake. For visitors who want to capture a beautiful photo, try and arrive in the morning when they first open; the crowds will be slightly smaller.
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