Sunday, December 2, 2012

A misty morning in the Lingering Garden

"The protagonist scene" of the Lingering Garden; the central lotus pond towards the Hanbi Mountain Hall. A perfectly still morning, not even the slightest breeze stir the clear mirror of the water.
On my second last day in Suzhou, I was getting a bit exhausted by the intensity of my visit... Trying to cram all the famous jewels of garden art into one trip takes its toll, however enthusiastic garden lover one might be. Still, determinate and with slightly aching feet, I refused to give up and set off to Liú Yuán, the Lingering Garden, on the early morning hour when a soft mist was still hanging in the air. Being one of the four most famous gardens in China, the crowds soon arrived, but just for a moment, I could get a beautiful glimpse of what a peaceful, elaborate garden this was before it had to endure the trampling feet of countless visiting groups. (post continues below after pictures...)
Another view of the Hanbi Mountain Hall; a wisteria-covered stone walkway on the right leads to the other side of the pond.
Luyin Gallery, the Gallery of the Green Shade on the left. It was named by an ancient maple that used to cover it with dense shade. To the right, Ming Se Lou, Brilliant and Refreshing Tower.
Simple stone bridges leading over tiny ravines connect the different parts of the "wilderness".
View from the ''mountain wilderness", north from the buildings shown above. Elaborate rockeries with winding paths and greenery fill this area, reminding of the mountainous landscapes of China.

The Lingering Garden is located outside the huge Changmen Gate to the old city of Suzhou, and with its 2.3 hectares, one of the largest classical gardens in the city. It was originally built in the 21st year of the reign of Wanli of Ming Dynasty, with translates into year 1539 on the western calendar. The name, Liú Yuán, is later, given after Liu Su, a 18th century owner of the garden, but as often the case with Chinese names, the homophonous word also can read as meaning leisure.
An astonishing 700 meters of winding, covered walkways lead through the Lingering Garden.
 The Study of Enlightenment, with mounds of soft bamboo planted above rock arrangements.
The Lingering Garden is extremely rich in its design, which is divided into four main parts. The middle part of the garden features a verdant hill and a pond, enclosed in several elegant halls. The eastern part contains many smaller buildings and famous rocks from Lake Taihu. The northern part has a fruit forest and a bamboo forest, with pavilions sprinkled out into the landscape. The western part is built as a 'natural wilderness' on woody hill, reminding of the mountainous landscapes of China. It is often said that the Lingering Garden displays all wonders in Chinese garden construction techniques, and represents the gathered wisdom of the ancient architects and artisans. (post continues after pictures...)

 A magnificent, undulating wall separates the woods in the western part of the garden from the pond and rockeries in the middle area. Arrestingly beautiful.
This garden fell into severe disrepair a century ago in 1911, when an owner who had inherited it didn't have neither interest nor resources for its upkeep. It was only in mid-20th century that it was restored by resources allocated by the People's Republic of China. It opened to the public in 1954.
A moment of rest and contemplation - at 7:30 in the morning, a gentleman took out his flutes and started playing in one of the pavilions. A garden path sweeper immediately dropped his broom, and took a short break from his monotonous work to to enjoy the music. 

The same pavilion as above (with the sound of flute still filling the air) seen from the penjing garden below.

Penjings, both small and large, fill the northern part of the garden, forming their own miniature sceneries within the scenery.

 Another, larger "miniature mountainscape" by the walkway leading to the penjing garden...
Just like the Humble Administrator's Garden, the Lingering Garden is one of the four most famous gardens in China, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, and one of the Cultural Relics of National Importance under the Protection of the State as well as a Special Tourist Attraction (grade AAAAA) of China. The fame leaves its marks, and to be able to enjoy the garden in peace is a rare treat. Still, this is an extraordinary garden to see, and an excellent reminder of the highly sophisticated achievements of the ancient Chinese culture.
A couple of rocks, an old vine and a calligraphy forming the focal point of a corridor leading out from the garden. So simple, so visually effective.

By the entrance of the garden - luckily, I was already on the way out from the Lingering Garden when the huge groups arrived. As I wrote earlier, try to time you visit so that it doesn't clash with the major Chinese holidays... everything will be so much easier and calmer.


Nic said...

Thank you for the very informative post and the stunning pictures! I unfortunately did not make it to the Lingering Garden when I was in Shanghai and Suzhou this summer - I could only drag the friend I was staying with to so many gardens in the course of a week - but it will be at the top of the list for my next visit!

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

Very interesting! Thank you! I lived in China for 10 months, and I love its gardens. You are right, to see the gardens you need to arrive there early!