People celebrate this garden for its exquisite layout of pools, rockeries, islets, bamboo groves, pavilions and corridors and they also praise it as the “Mother of all Chinese Gardens”.
HISTORY OF HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR’S GARDEN
Wang Xiancheng, the Ming Dynasty administrator, retired from his official duties and started to build the garden. It took him 16 years to complete the works in 1526. He commissioned the famous painter Wen Zhengming to design the garden, with concepts of poetry and traditional Chinese painting.
The founder of the garden considered himself humble, a characteristic that gave the name to the garden. He took gardening as his primary occupation, instead of working in the more prestigious government affairs.
But, after the owner’s death, his son lost the garden in a gambling debt to Xu family.
For the next 500 years, the garden went through numerous changes and divisions. Thus, it served either as a private garden or as government offices and dwellings.
Most of the current structures in the garden are from 1850, when it served as the palace garden of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom.
In the late Qing Dynasty, the garden was partitioned in three major parts, around a large lake: central, eastern and western part.
The Chinese government re-joined all three parts of the garden in 1949 and restored it in 1952. The garden subsequently opened its doors to the public.
The garden contains numerous pavilions and bridges and there is a maze of connected pools and islands.
HOW TO VISIT THE GARDEN?
In my Suzhou post, I mentioned that this garden was the most famous of all historic sites there. The best way to arrive to the garden is via Pingjiang road. When you reach the north end of this road, you will arrive to Dongbei pedestrian street. Then, the garden entrance is there, almost in front of you.
I visited this garden in the early afternoon. But, by that time it was already very busy. The garden is certainly the most famous and most popular of all Suzhou gardens. Unsurprisingly, many people want to see and enjoy in it.
To avoid crowds, perhaps the best time to visit is in the morning, at the time when the garden opens for visits. I believe that, at that time, you may be able to experience its tranquil and magical side. Unfortunately, you will not see that aspect if there are too many people around. I was not lucky because I went there too late in the day and there were too many people.
In any case, if you go to Suzhou, this garden is a must. Also, you can easily do a day trip from Shanghai, because this garden certainly deserves to be seen.