Last updated on Feb 28, 2012
Suzhou, a city famous for its decorative landscaping, provides a perfect setting to appreciate the art of Chinese gardening. The gardens in Suzhou are the best examples of plant cultivation integrated into private homes, either behind or beside the residential section. This gardening style is often referred to as a “Suzhou classical garden.”
The first of Suzhou’s private garden compounds belonged to the emperor of the Wu Kingdom in the Spring and Autumn Period (700-221 BC). Garden building became so popular that between the 16th and 18th centuries, Suzhou was home to over 200 private gardens. More than 60 remain today, restored after sustaining extensive damage during World War II.
A well-made garden, according to Chinese thought, is not merely a means of escaping from one’s mundane life, but a way of integrating a contemplative lifestyle into daily living. Therefore Chinese gardening is often seen as a form of “poetic living,” and the full beauty of the garden is slowly revealed, rather than being exposed all at once. This, in fact, will be what you find throughout the confines of gardens built after the traditional Suzhou style. A small pavilion, a rock structure, willow leaves hanging down as a sort of curtain, a stone bridge, winding walkways, and similar installations within the grounds simultaneously serve to beautify and to veil. The Lingering Garden perfectly demonstrates this tendency of traditional Suzhou gardening. Inside the Lion Grove Garden, the visitor may even start to suspect that there is some secret hidden in the maze of rockeries for which the garden is famous.
Other typical and recommended Suzhou gardens include the Humble Administrator’s Garden, the Master of Nets Garden and the Couple’s Retreat Garden.