The Suzhou gardens
What is the most popular tourist attraction in Suzhou? Ask any Chinese person and they will reply it’s the Suzhou gardens, of course. So I thought about writing a post about them. I don’t go there very often, but when someone comes to visit it’s a must.
The classical gardens of Suzhou are several gardens scattered through town and listed in the UNESCO World Heritage. All of them were the private mansions of rich people (mostly government officials) and now they are open to the public. They were built between the 11th and the 19th century. They are composed of four basic elements: pavilions, rocks, water and vegetation.
The first garden I ever visited in Suzhou was the Master of the Nets (网师园). It was built in 1140, although it was rebuilt several times afterwards. The current appearance is from the 19th century. It’s the smaller of the more famous gardens, but it doesn’t lack any of the distinctive elements.
My second garden, which I visited also the first time I came to Suzhou in 2008, was the biggest and most popular one: the Humble Administrator’s garden (拙政园). I think the name must be some kind of joke: this garden is HUGE so that administrator wasn’t that humble, at least in the “low in status” meaning of the word. There is a pretty big pond inside, and also a bonsai zone. The entry ticket price is also not “humble” at all: last time I checked it was 90 yuan during high season. I’ve been twice to this garden, the latest time in 2010.
When someone comes to visit I normally go to the Great Wave Pavilion (沧浪亭), as the entry ticket is more to my liking (last time I went it was low season and it was 15 RMB, I guess in high season it would be 20 or 25). This is the oldest of the Suzhou gardens: it was first built in 1044.
My next garden in the list is the Couple’s Garden, as I found out about it during my last walk in Suzhou. But my personal opinion for people who are just visiting for a short time is that all these gardens look very similar, so I would recommend to choose one, or two at most, to visit, and then checking some of the other sights in Suzhou.
Have you ever visited a Chinese garden?
Note: I scheduled this post in advance as I am currently on holidays in Europe. Please bear with me if I don’t reply comments or check your blogs! I will be back in a few days.