Houston Community News >> China Suzhou Garden

3/3/2008-- Suzhou is well-known as "city of gardens in China", which tops all others in both the number and the artistry of gardens.It is located in East China's Jiangsu Province. Suzhou has often been called an "Earthly Paradise". Meanwhile,it is known as the "Venice of the East" for its chequor board pattern of canals, which make it an ideal location for gardens.
Dating from Pi Jiang Garden of the Eastern Jing Dynasty, Suzhou's art of gardening has undergone a history of 1, 500 years. There were once over 200 private gardens in the city, and 69 of them are still in good preservation today. They are generally acknowledged to be masterpieces of the genre. The gardens reflect the profound metaphysical importance of natural beauty in Chinese culture in their meticulous design.

Suzhou garden is the Nature in nutshell ,which enables one to "feel the charm of mountains,forest and springs without going out of the noisy surroundings of the town". When enjoying tea, poem,flower arrangement or playing musical instrument in the garden,one gains the most natural inspiration. To those tourists desiring to understand China, Suzhou garden is the best museum.

Suzhou garden originated from the desire to retire from the strife of officialdom and to shun from worldly affairs. Former officials and rich merchants linked up with poets and painters to vie with each other over garden design. They created miniature landscapes in which nature and architecture fuse into a coherent whole to seek the return to Nature and the cultivation of temperament . To a certain extent, the scenes produced are like contrived landscape paintings.

In European gardens, most attention is paid to the various plant species, but in Chinese gardens the interplay of rocks, soil, water, plants, pavilions, light and paths is the principal concern.In Taoist philosophy and the refinement of culture underlies the theme of the garden. Hills and waters,flowers and trees,pavilion, terraces,towers and halls constitute the basic garden elements,while the prominent tone is expressed in the dark colour of roof tiles,the grey of bricks,and chestnut brown of wooden pillars.

Suzhou gardens have their own characteristics in layout, structure and style. The Four Classical Gardens of Suzhou, i.e.The Surging Waves Pavilion, The Lion Grove Garden, The Humble Administrator's Garden and The Lingering Garden represent the different styles of Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties.

The gardens are not large but are fascinating in their delicate design, containing hills, ponds, pavilions, terraces, corridors, and towers. Called the "Venice of the East", Suzhou has a high water table, which supplies the vast number of ponds and streams throughout the city.

Canglangting (Pavilion of the Surging Waves) is known for its peaceful scenery and simple architecture. It was built some nine hundred years ago by the scholar Su Zimei. Built in a unique style the garden makes use of and combines landscapes outside as well as inside the garden. The garden itself is composed of rocks, green bamboo groves and hills. Bright Path Hall is the largest building in the garden. The west wall of the hall is carved with more than 500 images of celebrities who have figured in Suzhou's history.

Shizilin (Lion Grove) was built during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). Again the small garden is truly exquisite in design, the rockeries imaginative. Entering the garden you find stones in various interesting shapes and most of them look like lions,hence the name.It is small but well arranged and to the southeast there are hills while in the northwest there is water. Around the garden there is a walkway that follows the contours of the land and there are a number of buildings that are in perfect harmony with the scenery including Yanyu Hall, Sleeping-Clouds Chamber and Seek-Plum-Blossoms Tower.

Zhuozhengyuan (The Humble Administrator's Garden), the largest in the city, is a lush and distinctive garden built in 1522 during the Ming Dynasty(1368-1644). It occupies four hectares of which water accounts for three-fifths. All the major buildings face the water. Centering on the pool, bridges and corridors harmoniously link up isles, rockeries, pavilions and towers. The garden shows a natural and flowing artistic style. At every turn, a different view was presented thanks to the techniques of screening, framing, and borrowing scenery.

Liuyuan (Garden to Linger in) was constructed in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and is 3.3 hectares in size.It demonstrates a compact layout and a delicate decorative art. The garden is divided into four sections: artificial hills in the west, pastoral scenery in the north, hall and pavilion structures in the east and hills and waters at the center. A winding corridor of over 1,000 meters links them.On the walls of it are a great number of stone carvings and windows.

The unique charm of these gardens has led to their entry into the list of world cultural heritage in 1997.

(Contributed by an editor from linkinch.com)