The Humble Administrator’s Garden is the largest garden in Suzhou. It is also one the finest gardens in southern China. It contains almost all features of classical Suzhou gardens and it became the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
People celebrate this garden for its exquisite layout of pools, rockeries, islets, bamboo groves, pavilions and corridors and praise it as the “Mother of all Chinese Gardens”.
Wang Xiancheng – the Ming Dynasty administrator – retired from his official duties and started to build the garden. He took 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, which was the characteristic that gave the name to the garden. He took the gardening as his primary occupation instead of working in 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 current structures in the garden are from 1850, when it served as a palace garden of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom.
In the late Qing Dynasty, the garden was partitioned in three major parts, around the large lake: the central, the eastern and the western part.
The Chinese government rejoined 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.
In my Suzhou post, I mentioned that this garden was the most famous of all historical sites in Suzhou. 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. The garden entrance is nearby.
I visited this garden in the early afternoon. However, by that time it was already very busy. The garden is the most famous and the most popular of all Suzhou gardens. But, many people want to see it 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 at that time you may be able to experience its tranquil and magical side. Unfortunately, you will not see that aspect of the garden if there are too many people around. I was not lucky because I went there too late in the day.
In any case, if you go to Suzhou, this garden is a must. Also, you can easily do a day trip from Shanghai, this garden certainly deserves to be seen.