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Home History and Culture Suzhou Gardens
Suzhou Gardens
Learn Chinese - History and Culture
Suzhou is China's well-known "city of gardens", which tops all gardens in both the number and the artistry. Suzhou's art of gardening has undergone a history of 1,500 years. According to chorography, there were once over 200 gardens in the city, and 69 of them are still in good preservation today.

Suzhou gardens seek the return to Nature and the cultivation of temperament, with hills and waters, flowers and trees, pavilion, terraces, towers and halls composing the basic garden elements.

 Suzhou gardens have their own characteristics in layout, structure and style. The Four Classical Gardens of Suzhou, namely, the Surging Waves Pavilion, the Lion Grove Garden, the Humble Administrator's Garden and the Lingering Garden, respectively represent the different styles of Song (960-1279), Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

The Canglang Pavilion

Canglang Pavilion, also named the Surging Waves Pavilion and located south of Suzhou City, is the oldest garden among the existing classical gardens of Suzhou. The area used to be the private garden of a Prince of the Five Dynasties (907-960). During the Northern Song Dynasty, the scholar Su Zimei built a pavilion in the garden and named it Canglang Pavilion.

The garden, connected by a long roofed walkway, features a range of man-made mountains on the inside and waterscapes on the outside. To enter the garden, one must proceed past an expanse of water over a zigzag bridge of stone and through the entrance. It is at this point that one catches sight of a man-made mountain covered with age-old trees and bamboos.

The Mingdao Hall (Enlightened Way Hall), located to the south of the mountains, is the major building of the garden. It was said to have been a site for lectures during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Surrounded by verdant trees, it appears simple but dignified. On the walls of the hall hang three rubbings of the Song Dynasty steles, which are pictures of astronomy, Song Dynasty vehicles and a map of Pingjiang (today's Suzhou) in the Song Dynasty. Inside the hall there is a wall inlaid with more than 500 stone statuaries of figures related to the history of Suzhou.

In the southwest part of the garden is a stone cave in rockeries, on which stands a pavilion for people to enjoy scenery in Suzhou.

The Lion Grove Garden

Located in the northeast part of Suzhou City, the Lion Grove Garden is the representative of gardens of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). It was first built in 1350 by Monk Tianru and his disciples, as a memorial to their master, Monk Zhongfeng. Because there were a lot of grotesque rocks in the garden resembling lions, the garden was thus named as the Lion Grove. With an area of 10,000 square meters, the Lion Grove Garden has reputed as the "Kingdom of Rockery" for a long time.

Covering nearly half of the total area of the garden, these rockworks, made from Taihu Lake limestone, were ingeniously piled up in layers to form peaks, crags, valleys and caverns. There're 9 mountain paths, 21 caves, and innumerable grotesque rocks, many of them resembling lions with different and striking poses, such as dancing lions, roaring lions, a couple of fighting lions, and lions playing with a ball.

It was said that Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty once visited here and wrote an inscription "Zhenqu" (True Delight) to describe the beauty of the garden, which is now hung on the True Delight Pavilion. The long corridor zigzags throughout the garden, with walls carved with 67 pieces of calligraphy works of famous Chinese calligraphers. Other famous architectures include Wen Tianxiang Poem Steles Pavilion and Imperial Steles Pavilion, etc.

The Lingering Garden

With an area of 30 mu (2 hectares) and situated outside the Cang Gate of Suzhou City, the Lingering Garden was originally the East Garden of Xu Shiqin in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), later it became the property of Liu Rongfeng of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and was renamed Haibi Villa, popularly known as "Liu Garden". In the 12th year (1873) of the reign of Tongzhi, it was purchased, expanded and overhauled by the new owner, Sheng famlily, who renamed it "the Lingering Garden".

Today, centering the pond, the garden is separated into the eastern, middle, northern and western parts. To the south of the pond are groupings of garden courts and elegant buildings, such as Mingse Building; to the north are rockeries and pavilions; to the west are rockeries with a long corridor zigzagging to all parts of the garden; and to the east are zigzag corridors and Guanyun Courtyard which is best famous for its 6.6-meter-high and 5-ton-weighty Guanyun Peak, the only complete Taihu Lake limestone and the biggest among the rockworks in Suzhou gardens.

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