Comments of the World Heritage Committee
Classical Chinese garden design, which seeks to recreate natural landscapes in miniature, is nowhere better illustrated than in the gardens in the historic city of Suzhou. They are generally acknowledged to be masterpieces of the genre. Dating from the 16th-18th century, the gardens reflect the profound metaphysical importance of natural beauty in Chinese culture in their meticulous design.
The classical gardens of Suzhou are situated in Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province. They were first laid out as far back as the 6th century BC and reached their peak during the period from the 16th century to the 18th century. Records show that there were over 200 gardens during their heyday. Of the dozens of gardens still remaining, the Humble Administrator’s Garden, the Lingering Garden, the Master-of-Nets Garden and the Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty are masterpieces of the folk constructions built south of the Yangtze River in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911).
The Humble Administrator’s Garden, with an area of some 50,000 square meters, is the largest among the classical gardens of Suzhou. It was originally the residence of Lu Guimeng (?-881), a poet of the Tang Dynasty. The extant buildings were mostly rebuilt in 1860 or the tenth year during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng of the Qing Dynasty. They are divided into the eastern, central, western and residential parts. The central part, based around a pond, is the main scenic area, with pavilions and buildings built around a pond. The Drifting Fragrance Hall is the principal building of the main scenic area, featuring long windows on four sides and from which one can view the sights in the garden in any direction. Water occupies three-fifths of the total area which is otherwise dotted with hills, rocks, old trees, green bamboos and flowers. Its layout is simple and modest, representing the architectural style of the gardens of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The garden is reputed as “the mother of all gardens under the sun”.
The Lingering Garden ranks first among the classical gardens of Suzhou in terms of the number of buildings. The halls, corridors, whitewashed walls, gates, rockeries, ponds, flowers and trees combine to form dozens of courtyards of different sizes. The whole garden is divided into four parts, each with its own constructions, thus presenting four different kinds of environment: hills and water, rural scenery, woods, and courtyards. Windows without glass, ornamental perforated windows and gates are used to connect the different landscapes.
The Master-of-Nets Garden is representative of the medium and small-sized classical gardens in Suzhou. Its total area is less than one sixth of that of the Humble Administrator’s Garden. However, it boasts a well-proportioned layout, with extending vistas of different types of garden scenery.
The Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty is mainly comprised of rockeries (whose area accounts for one third of the garden). It leads China in terms of the density of lake rockeries and man-made hills inone garden. Such hill sights as crags, ridges and peaks, caves, gullies and roof gardens, all in perfect combination, can all be found here.
The gardens of Suzhou are famous for being exquisite, quietly elegant and a feast for the senses, combining both tourist attractions and residential houses. The inclusion of halls, steles, inscribed stone slabs, carvings and adornments also add a distinctly human touch to the natural delights of the gardens themselves.
Website of the Lion Grove Garden: www.szszl.com
Website of the Humble Administrator’s Garden: www.szzzy.cn
Website of the Lingering Garden: www.gardenly.com
Website of the Master-of-Nets Garden: www.szwsy.com
Railways link Suzhou to all the principal large and medium-sized cities in China and the Shanghai-Nanjing Expressway connects Nanjing, Shanghai and Hangzhou. The tour bus Nos. 1, 2 and 5 run to scenic areas, and the public bus Nos. 202, 923, 178, 301, 811, 55, 529, 309 and 518 also stop conveniently close to the Lion Grove Garden.
Suzhou cuisine lays much stress on quality ingredients and features meticulous preparation and presentation. Cooking methods include braising, stewing, steaming, baking and stir-frying. The local signature dishes are the Squirrel-Shaped Mandarin Fish, the Shark’s Fins in Clear Soup, the Fried Eel Paste, the Chicken in Watermelon, the Whole Chicken in Special Sauce, the Taihu Water Shield Soup, the Fried Shrimps with Sliced Vegetables and the Braised Louts-Shaped Collection. The snacks of Suzhou, such as the Sweet Dried Bean Curd, the Pine Nut Candy, the Rose-Flavor Melon Seeds, the Shrimp-roe Soy Sauce, the Jujube Paste Cake and the Rice Cake with Lard, are popular with everybody who tries them. Streets specializing in catering, principally the Eunuch Lane, the Shiquan Street, the Xueshi Street, the Jiayu Fang, the Fenghuang Street, the Ganjiang Road and the Snacks Street in Shilu Jinmen Market, are all highly recommended.
Telephone of Humble Administrator’s Garden: 0086-512-67510286
Telephone of Lingering Garden: 0086-512-65579466
Telephone of Master-of-Nets Garden: 0086-512-65293190
Telephone of Lion Grove Garden: 0086-512-67773263/67272428