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Posts tagged “Suzhou

LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China

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.

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Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
2.0 HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR’S GARDEN, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
4.0 SOUP DUMPLINGS AND MORNING STROLL, Shanghai, 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
9.0 FORMER FRENCH CONCESSION, 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
14.0 CHINESE HAND PRINTED BLUE NANKEEN GALLERY (藍印花布博物館), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China

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HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR’S GARDEN, Suzhou, China

After Suzhou Museum, we moved on to next door to visit the Humble Administrator’s Garden (拙政園).  Humble Administrator’s Garden is the largest garden in Suzhou, and one of the most popular gardens in Southern China.  This UNESCO heritage site was first built in 1509 and was once the private garden of different poets, scholars and the wealthy and famous individuals in the region. This 5.2-hectare garden is dominated by pavilions, lily ponds, small lakes, small villas, and a extensive network of bridges and covered walkways.

The garden was full of local visitors.  For the first half of the garden, it felt like as if we entered a community park with leisure walkways winding along a small lake.  Spring flowers were in full bloom, while locals were busy taking selfies.  The garden was really crowded and sometimes noisy.  We imagined that it would be pleasant to wander around Humble Administrator’s Garden if we could come at a less crowded time.  Nevertheless, we did find charming moments deeper in the garden at a few tranquil spots.

DSC_0331Once inside, the garden is dominated by a series of lakes and ponds of various sizes.

DSC_0350The garden is full of small sky-wells and courtyards, blurring the boundary between exterior and interior spaces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFlying eaves of a pavilion by the water.  An interconnected water system was considered to be a crucial element in a traditional Suzhou garden.

DSC_0359A covered bridge linking pavilions and covered walkways in the garden.

DSC_0361Interior decorations inside a pavilion.

DSC_0374 Window openings in Chinese architecture often serve as picture frames for beautiful scenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA tranquil corner of water pond, peach blossom and white washed walls viewed from a small pavilion.

DSC_0383Humble Administrator’s Garden is a perfect place for a leisure stroll when it is not overwhelmed by visitors.

DSC_0391A painter at work attracting the attention of a tourist group.

DSC_0408The undulating tiled roof resembles the back of the dragon.

DSC_0417A zigzag walkway along a water pond and mirror-like reflections.

DSC_0420Vine trellis of different designs could be found in the garden. They provided perfect sun shading to visitors.

DSC_0422The pink peach tree blossom standing out among the garden greenery was often the centre of attention to visitors.

DSC_0433The vine trellis provided pleasant natural shading for visitors.

DSC_0438Pink flowers in full bloom near the exit of the garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStreet vendor selling a wide range of fresh fruits. Bright red, green, yellow and purple, these colourful fruits caught our attention from afar.

 

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Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
2.0 HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR’S GARDEN, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
4.0 SOUP DUMPLINGS AND MORNING STROLL, Shanghai, 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
9.0 FORMER FRENCH CONCESSION, 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
14.0 CHINESE HAND PRINTED BLUE NANKEEN GALLERY (藍印花布博物館), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China


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 CAMERAThe giant vines.

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.

 

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Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
2.0 HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR’S GARDEN, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
4.0 SOUP DUMPLINGS AND MORNING STROLL, Shanghai, 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
9.0 FORMER FRENCH CONCESSION, 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
14.0 CHINESE HAND PRINTED BLUE NANKEEN GALLERY (藍印花布博物館), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China