Exquisitely renowned classical gardens blanket Suzhou’s rich landscape, wrapped in narrow winding waterways. Many of the city’s gardens have earned worldwide recognition for their great beauty, as well as their cultural and historical significance. Suzhou’s largest and most noted garden is the Humble Administrator’s Garden, honored for both its unique design and delicate beauty. As well as receiving recognition as a World Heritage Site, the garden is listed as a Cultural Relic of National Importance under protection of the State. Noted as one of the country’s most famous gardens alongside Beijing’s Summer Palace and the Mountain Resort of Chengde in Hebei Provence, it has received the most international attention for its purity, balance, and composition.
The vast garden covers an area of nearly 52,000sq meters, one fifth of which is occupied by a lake. It was first designed in 1509 during the Ming Dynasty as a private garden for Wang Xianchen, a former government servant. The garden was named for Wang, a humble man who wanted to live out the remaining years of his life tending to the trees and plants in his garden. It was built on the site of an old residence and temple. Distinguished by three different sections; the eastern, middle, and western, the garden deliberately weaves through a field of man-made pavilions, halls, parlors, natural forests, hills, and elaborate rock formations.
Within the eastern section stands the Cymbidium Goeingii Hall (Lanxiang Tang). A panoramic map of the entire garden stretches along the southern wall of the hall, noting the nearly 50 buildings scattered throughout the varied landscape. Also within the eastern section stands the Celestial Spring Pavilion, named for the ancient well that it stands above. Dense forests of pine and bamboo stand amidst swatches of lush greenery, and low rolling hills in the eastern garden.
Regarded as the garden’s most impressive section, the central area boasts clear waters and elegant structures amidst a scenic backdrop of impressive mountains, countless trees, and fragrant flowers. The Hall of Distant Fragrance stands serenely nearby a beautiful lotus pond for which it was named. During summer, the pond is blanketed in a colorful field of floating lotus flowers. Near the pool the Small Flying Rainbow Bridge crosses the lake. The unique design of the bridge makes it a rare element within the garden, admired for its intricate detail.
The western section is characterized by a number of meticulously arranged buildings and pavilions including the 36 Pairs of Mandarin Ducks Hall and the Hall of 18 Camellas, which join together to form the ornate Mandarin Duck Hall. Also situated in the western garden is the Pagoda Reflection Pavilion, known for the optical illusion it projects, appearing as though it is floating in the pool below.
The garden continues to thrive in beauty and magnificence with each passing year. Seasonal floral exhibitions are held here including the Lotus and Azalea Festivals in the summer and the annual Bonsai Festival that honors this fine art of gardening that is represented in areas throughout the garden.