Thursday, November 8, 2012

Back to Suzhou: The Garden of Pleasance

Yi Yuan, the Garden of Pleasance, opens up as an oasis in the middle of the bustling Suzhou city centre.
Today, I had a really a busy morning (again),so I craved for some soothing garden pictures to pick myself up...  thus yet another post about my garden visits in Suzhou.
The Garden of Pleasance (Yi Yuan in pinyin) is one of the lesser-known gardens in Suzhou. As it is not on the Unesco World Heritage list, it is seldom included in tourist group itineraries. Situated outside the old city area close to the new commercial centre, the modern business life keeps creeping closer; in the north corner of the garden, a greasy smell of frying accompanied by hectic rattle of pots and pans wafted quite unfittingly from above the old garden walls. Despite these occasional disturbances, the Garden of Pleasance lives perfectly up to the expectations set by its name; its compact, detailed design offered wonderful nooks and sights around every corner.
A long, covered corridor separates the eastern and western parts of the Yi Yuan.

 A view of the pond from the other side of the corridor, and a zigzagging stone bridge a bit further into the garden. It connects both sides of the central pond and huge rockeries topped with a pavilion can be seen on the other side of it.
The Garden of Pleasance is one of the youngest gardens in Suzhou. It was built by Gu Wenbin, the Governor of Ningbo in Zhejian during the Qing Dynasty as late as in 1874; a garden called the Garden of Harmony from the time of Ming Dynasty already existed on the site. The new owner renamed his garden Yi Yuan, the Garden of Pleasance, for "remolding the temperament and prolonging the life span". It is quite small, only 0.6 hectare, but despite its size includes all the best features of classical Suzhou gardens - well-proportionate pavilions, a serene pond and cave-dotted rockeries and peaks. Despite the occasional inharmonious whiff from outside, I loved this garden. It was well-proportioned and offered just enough (but not too much) variety, like a a pleasant, amicable haven to sit in or wander through. Also, it had a quaint little tea house, where old ladies were sipping their teas and playing cards, enjoying a soothing respite from the bustle of the city life outside... A wonderful place for a quiet pause after - or between - the more well-known gardens of Suzhou.
Inside a the largest hall of the garden (seen from outside in the last picture of the post); a stylish arrangement of furniture, painting on wooden panels, scholar's stone and ceramics.
 A courtyard in the back of the hall, with huge containers and Lake Taihu stones with imaginative forms that can be carefully contemplated.

Views from the studies and halls are always carefully planned; here, a huge Lake Taihu stone appears in the middle of the view from the latticed doors and windows.

A three-tiered boat hall from the land side; boat pavilions were built by the ponds for enjoying the waterscapes or for hosting parties. They can also be used to express one's longing for a secluded life - I wonder what was the case here? The pathways of this garden were so small, that taking pictures wasn't an easy task.

 The boat hall from the other side of the pond, with the huge rockeries towering on the left side.

View from the top of the rockery, with the pavilion that can be seen in the fourth picture of this post. 

And down to the dungeons.. the rockeries are punctured by caves and connected by single stone slabs that act as bridges. I have to admit that I almost panicked when I couldn't find my way back through the maze; in the end I just climbed over to the other side, which is a naughty thing to do, but I couldn't help myself.

A moongate to the inner garden with bamboo, and an lively, undulating wall; some say that the form of these walls is supposed to remind of the backs of flying dragons, which is a fascinating thought.

And a final picture of the large hall opening to the pond that forms the centre of the garden; all of the pictures above are actually taken from situations around it - like the zigzagging bridge to the left. The Garden of Pleasance is an intimate, harmonious garden to visit if you want to see more than the four most famous ones (all of them included in my upcoming posts) in Suzhou.


Northern Shade said...

It's beautiful the way the buildings and paths are integrated with the natural elements of ponds and stones. I've been enjoying this series on your visit to these gardens.

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Thank you, Northern Shade! I still have many gardens left, I've been too busy to post... the longer it takes, the more I want to go back, these Chinese gardens really are quite addictive!