ultramarinus – beyond the sea


Another UNESCO World Heritage enlisted Suzhou garden, the Lion Grove Garden (獅子林園) is much smaller in scale compared to Humble Administrator’s Garden.  The garden is famous for its artificial Taihe rocks, where visitors can meander through a labyrinth of rocks that were grouped and constructed into miniatures of mysterious landscapes.  Originally built in 1342 during the Yuan Dynasty, the Lion Grove Garden had been famous for centuries.  Throughout history, the garden had gone through several cycles of restorations and declines.  In early 20th century, I. M. Pei’s grandfather became the owner of the garden, and put great effort to restore the garden to its former glory.  Today, the garden is owned by the state, and has become an icon of Suzhou.

After Humble Administrator’s Garden, we only had time for one more gardens before our return train to Shanghai.  We chose Lion Grove Garden over the others because of its famous rocks.  By the time we entered the garden, the afternoon sun was casting neat shadows and a yellowish glow to the rocks and pavilions.  Many local tourists were around, but we managed to enjoy ourselves much better at Lion Grove Garden than the Humble Administrator’s Garden.  The scale of Lion Grove was more intimate, and the dozens or so pavilions were neatly placed at strategic locations ideal for framing interesting views of the garden.  Seeing some of the traditional design elements of the Lion Grove Garden made us realized that some geometric motifs of I. M. Pei’s architecture might have come from his childhood’s experience of this magnificent Suzhou garden.

Before heading back to the train station, we dropped by the restaurant Wu Men Ren Jia (吳門人家) for a quick afternoon tea.  Made its name by hosting a number of international guests and famous individuals such as I. M. Pei and local politicians, Wu Men Ren Jia wrapped up our brief Suzhou visit with a memorable taste of the regional cuisine.

DSC_0453An exquisite sculpture in the drawing room at the first courtyard of the Lion Grove Garden.

DSC_0458_02An octagon and then circular gateways greeted our arrival to the inner garden area.

DSC_0492The scene of a tree standing behind a series of stained glass windows was one of our favorite images of the Lion Grove Garden.

DSC_0496The abstract rock design of Lion Grove Garden serves as a visual attraction when viewing from afar, and also stands as an intimate labyrinth in which a network of hidden paths allow visitors to meandering through the rock clusters at different levels.  Unfortunately it was simply impossible to appreciate the rock garden without the crowds.

DSC_0529Pavilions, artificial rocks, zigzag bridges and reflective pools are the common elements of a traditional Chinese garden.

DSC_0554Like the Summer Palace in Beijing, a stone boat offered a special attraction to the garden complex.

DSC_0555For some reason, ancient Chinese were very fond of the abstract looking rocks.

DSC_0561Water gave a sense of coherency and softened the atmosphere of the rocks.

DSC_0573A young woman was making Chinese water colour drawings at a pavilion.

DSC_0583View of the garden through the stain glass window of the stone boat.

DSC_0588The main zigzag bridge of Lion Grove Garden.

DSC_0600Most visitors were wandering only in the central pool and rock garden areas.  Here at a quiet corner at the side, we found a moment of serenity under the late afternoon sun.

DSC_0605Bamboo grove and wooden veranda provide a good buffer between the interior and the exterior.

DSC_0607A window opened to the small courtyard, framing the tree and an ornate screen motif like a painting.

DSC_0616After the visit to the Lion Grove Garden, we had about a bit of time left before our scheduled train back to Shanghai.  There was a local restaurant called Wu Men Ren Jia just a stone throw away.  The restaurant was tucked inside a narrow lane way which took us some time to find.

DSC_0614At Wu Men Ren Jia, we sampled two local dishes: the slow-cooked braised pork and the river shrimp stir fry with green tea leaves. The dishes were on the oily side for us but they were well cooked with the right balance of flavors. Having the opportunity to taste the authentic traditional dishes from South of the Yangtze was a bonus for our brief visit to Suzhou.

DSC_0621The sun was setting behind a willow by a canal.  Given the dusty construction sites all over the place and the busy traffic in the city, today’s Suzhou must be very different than what it used to be.

DSC_0627We bid farewell to Suzhou as we entered Suzhou Station under its gigantic canopy.


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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