One of the important cities in the Yangtze River Delta, Suzhou is a renowned cultural, historical and tourist city. Bordering Shanghai in the east, Zhejiang Province in the south, Taihu Lake in the west and the Yangtze River in the north, it is easily accessible.
“Just as there is paradise in heaven, there are Suzhou and Hangzhou on earth.” The old saying conveys the favorable environment of Suzhou. Small bridges and flowing water, white walls and dark grey roof tiles form a unique landscape, matching one another in tranquil elegance. The classical gardens are destinations visitors to Suzhou can’t afford to miss.
Of the four well-known gardens in China, the Summer Palace and Chengde Mountain Summer Resort are in the north, representing the royal gardens; the Humble Administrator’s Garden and the Lingering Garden are in Suzhou, which are characteristic of classic private gardens. The Ming and Qing dynasties are the prime time for the garden construction of Suzhou, when at one time there were more than 200 private family gardens. A dozen of them are still in good condition today including the Humble Administrator’s Garden, the Lion Grove Garden, the Master-of-Nets Garden, the Lingering Garden, the Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty, the Canglang Pavilion, the Garden of Cultivation, the Garden of Couple’s Retreat, the Retreat and Reflection Garden. The unique charm of these classic gardens led to their entry into the World Heritage List in 1997 and 2000.
Generally speaking, the classical gardens in Suzhou occupy less area, but through ingenious design they all display a sense of poetic grace in a relatively limited space. The designers had artificial hills and ponds arranged, flowers and trees planted, and pavilions and halls built in a compact, rational and unsophisticated way to imitate the natural scenery and fulfill a variety functions such living, reading, resting, and entertaining.
Among the Classical Gardens of Suzhou, Canglang Pavilion, Lion Grove Garden, Humble Administrator’s Garden and Lingering Garden, representing the different styles of Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, have the reputation of the four most famous gardens in Suzhou.