Saturday, February 9, 2008
Suzhou is know for its waterway canals and silk production, but also its gardens. There used to be 100 of them, but only a handful that are restored and charge admission. But they are well worth it.
When I arrived at the Suzhou train station I jumped into a taxi and asked the driver to take me to the Garden of the Master of the Nets (Wang Shi Yuan).
But he was reticent. "Why do you want to go to a small garden? You should go to the Humble Administrator's Garden (Zhuozheng Yuan)."
My guidebook had suggested it and I told him so. He kept trying to sell me the latter one, but I'm glad I went to Wang Shi Yuan.
It's described as small, but I don't think it's that tiny. It used to be the residence of a retired official in the 18th century and inside are numerous rooms and courtyards including a pond in the middle. The furniture is beautiful and the wooden screen doors frame the nature outside.
Another garden I visited is called Blue Wave Pavilion (Cang Lang Ting). It's one of the oldest gardens in Suzhou and dates back from the 11th century.
One person who used to own it was scholar Su Zimei, who named the place after a poem by Qu Yuan.
When I entered I heard a Chinese flute and singing. In one room a group of opera enthusiasts were gathering for singing and music.
The rest of the garden was huge, with a fabulous pavilion on a hill in the middle, complete with rocks with holes in them and the pathways made with small stones creating mosaics on the ground.
While it was quite chilly in Suzhou today, there weren't too many people in these gardens so it was a relaxing and pleasant experience. It was definitely a quiet retreat from the big city.