ultramarinus – beyond the sea

SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China

Before we kicked off our brief spring break in Shanghai, we took a high speed train to visit  Suzhou, Shanghai’s neighboring city famous for its picturesque canals and historical gardens about 100km northwest of Shanghai.  Today, Suzhou is the second largest city in Jiangsu Province, and is only half an hour of high speed train away from Shanghai.  Its gigantic train station is conveniently located by the Waicheng River just north of the old city.  Across Waicheng River, the north gate and the ancient city wall reminded visitors its 2500 years of history.  The full blossoms of peach flowers along the river promenade signified the pleasant spring season south of Yangtze River.

We crossed a bridge to enter the old city, and continued to headed southeast towards Suzhou’s tourist heartland, the area around Humble Ambassador’s Garden.  Just before reaching Humble Ambassador’s Garden, we decided to first check out Suzhou Museum.  Designed by architect I. M. Pei, the museum is a pleasant destination to have better understanding about the ancient city.  Borrowing design motifs, colour palette and planning strategies from the local architecture, Suzhou Museum expresses a contemporary atmosphere with touches of the local heritage.  At the heart of the complex, the central courtyard maintained the spirit of a Suzhou garden, with water ponds, pine trees, and a contemporary reinterpretation of Suzhou artificial mountains.

The collections in the Suzhou Museum ranged from artifacts to historical paintings.  We were more interested in the architecture itself, from its minimalist rock garden to its interior water feature where a prominent staircase connected all floors.  After a brief tour of the building, we exited the museum at a side entrance leading to a well preserved historical garden complex.  The complex belonged to Prince Zhong of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, a state that ruled part of China in the mid 19th century.  By the time we exited the complex onto the main pedestrian street, we were only a stone throw away from the entrance into Humble Ambassador’s Garden.

DSC_0188High speed rail links Suzhou to Shanghai in only half an hour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASuzhou Railway Station stands at the opposite to the city’s old north gate.

DSC_0202Peach and plum flowers greeted us outside Suzhou Railway Station.

DSC_0228Inside Suzhou Museum, we were soon attracted by these huge vine plants that dominated the trellis of a courtyard.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell lit corridors connect all exhibition rooms in the museum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWithin the museum complex, the central courtyard and its reflective pool often serve as a visual focus beyond the windows.

DSC_0242This magnificent landscape painting in the garden is made of various thin sheets of rocks.  The layering of the mountain-like stones and its reflections make a perfect scenery for the garden, presenting a twist to the traditional Chinese gardens.

DSC_0245 The simple geometry and the elegant aesthetic of the building were greatly inspired by the regional tradition of architecture.

DSC_0268Feature stair in the museum.

DSC_0279Feature stair with the mini water fall beyond.

DSC_0288Feature stair in the museum.

DSC_0275Skylights were used in a number of exhibition halls to provide soft ambient lighting.

DSC_0277The pleasant main hallway where visitors come and exit the museum.

DSC_0313 A stage for Chinese opera in the former Prince Zhong Complex.

DSC_0324 Decorative planting, rock display and natural light in small courtyards at Prince Zhong’s Complex.

DSC_0328The front hall of Prince Zhong Complex opens directly to the main pedestrian streets.



Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
5.0 ROCKBUND, Shanghai, China
6.0 M50, Shanghai, China
7.0 1933 SHANGHAI (老場坊) , Shanghai, China
8.0 POLY GRAND THEATRE (上海保利大劇院), Shanghai, China
10.0 POWER STATION OF ART, Shanghai, China
11.0 LONG MUSEUM (龍美術館), West Bund, Shanghai, China
12.0 THE BUND (外灘) AT NIGHT, Shanghai, China
13.0 TIANZIFANG (田子坊), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China

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