Suzhou Classical Gardens

On March 18, 2011, in Cool Places, Shanghai, by Jack Li

“Suzhou gardens are the best of those in southern China that are the best of the world.” Other than travelling to modern China cities like Beijing Tours, Shanghai Tours and Guangzhou Tours, do remember to go to Suzhou to stir your imagination. 

Generally little and delicate, Suzhou gardens produce a sense of a beautiful painting. The stress is put on meandering through a labyrinth of complexity and continuous surprises of vista at each step forward. The miniature mountains and rocks, the bridges and the waters – they are small yet grand; the flowers and trees, the towers and pavilions – they are exquisite with seclusion and serene. Within limits the garden spaces are so ingeniously handled that the effect of infinitude is produced, hence they are reputed as “vast landscape condensed in a little garden”.

Suzhou is located beside Taihu Lake, and it is a fertile land with a subtropical monsoon climate, moderate with distinctive four seasons. Suzhou is a city of rivers and canals and also a city of gardens. Hence it is called the “Venice of the Orient”. 

Suzhou was first established in 514 BC and it was once the capital city of Kingdom of Wu. King of Wu became the most powerful of the time because of the support of the mighty economy of the area. In Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, Suzhou boasted as the most abundant “land of grain and meat” of the nation and thus began from Song Dynasty the famous sayings that “Suzhou on earth matches paradise in Heaven” and “bumper harvests in Suzhou alone are enough for the whole nation”.

 Suzhou is the site of the prosperous Wu Culture, and it has bred up a great many of scholars and high officials in all dynasties. When these scholars and high officials returned to their birthplace because of either retirement after ambition fulfillment or for hermitage due to disappointment, they would spend a great amount of money on gardens for literary cultivation in their senior years. Besides, the beautiful topography, gentle customs, and peaceful life of Suzhou’s also helped to promote the construction and advance of so many landscape gardens in Suzhou.


The Ming and Qing dynasties between the 14th and 20th century were its prime periods of garden building, when at one time there were more than 200 private family gardens. A dozen of them are still in good condition today, including the top four classic gardens – the Fisherman’s Net Garden, Lion Grove, Humble Administrator’s Garden and Lingering Garden.

The Small Flying Rainbow Bridge in the Humble Administrator’s Garden

The Humble Administrator’s Garden, the largest, occupies four hectares. It has built in 1522 during the Ming Dynasty. Water accounts for three-fifths of its total area. All the major buildings face the water. Centering on the pool, bridges and corridors harmoniously ink up isles, rockeries, pavilions and towers. The garden shows a natural and flowing artistic style.

Xiangzhou in the Humble Administrator’s Garden

The Tianquan Pavilion in the Humble Administrator’s Garden

The Lingering Garden, on the other hand, demonstrates a compact layout and a delicate decorative art. Built in the Ming Dynasty, it was renovated and expanded in the early 19th century during the Qing Dynasty to cover an area of 3.3 hectares as we see it today. The garden is divided into four sections: artificial hills in the west, pastoral scenery in the north, hall and pavilion structures in the east and hills and waters at the center. A winding corridor of over 1000 meters links them. 

The Lingering Garden

The Lingering Garden

Suzhou Classical Gardens represent the national characteristics and artistic attainments of ancient Chinese gardening, a creation of human beings and reflect people’s love of nature and their desire for beauty in their lives. Just enjoy your China Tours in the combination of nature gifts and human talent!

Jack Li

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