The Classical Gardens of Suzhou Travel Guide
The Classical Chinese Garden design, which seeks to recreate natural landscapes in miniature, is nowhere better illustrated than in the nine gardens in the historic city of Suzhou.
They are generally acknowledged to be masterpieces of the genre. The beginning of the history of the Suzhou classical gardens can be traced back to the 6th century BC, when the king of Wu of the Spring and Autumn Period built a royal garden; among the private gardens, then first recorded in historical texts is the Pijiang(Territory-Expander's) Garden of Eastern Jin times(4th century AD).
From then on, gardening thrived in successive periods, and famous gardens increased. In the Ming and Qing periods, Suzhou became one of the busiest areas in China, with private gardens spread all over the city and its suburbs. Especially from the 16th to the 18th century, the golden period of garden building, its gardens exceeded two hundred, of which dozens have been preserved in a good condition up to the present.
Therefore, Suzhou has consistently been praised as the paradise on earth. As typical examples of Suzhou classical gardening, the Zhuozheng(Humble Resident´s),Liu(Everlasting) and Wangshi(Master-of-net´s)gardens and Huanxiu(Beauty Embraced)Mountain Villa, all built in the period of the prosperous development of private gardens, are noted for their imagination-inspiring atmosphere, exquisite workmanship, superb artistry and rich cultural contents, which earned them the position of model and representative buildings among the numerous classical gardens of Suzhou. The Freehand Style of Landscape Painting is as the Guiding Principle of Gardening.
The Freehand Style of Landscape Painting as the Guiding Principle of Gardening
Chinese gardening struck root deeply in Chinese literature and painting, in particular, accepted strong influence from Tang, Song and later scholars´ freehand style of landscape painting, producing a good excellent three-dimensional imitations of their works.
In the developmental course of Chinese gardening, two categories of gardens, i.e the imperial garden and the private one, were evolved, the former in BeiJing and the latter in Suzhou. Because of their diversity in political, economic, cultural, climatic and geographic circumstances, the two categories are distinctly different from each other in scale, layout, dimension, style and color.
The imperial gardens excel for their grandeur, neatness, sumptuousness and deep colors, while the Suzhou gardens impress people with their small but elegant looks, light but graceful colors, and bold but richly expressive style. As the latter were built with special attention added to harmony between culture and artistry, the imperial garden greatly absorbed in the late stage of its development the bold style of Suzhou gardens as a means of improving and enriching its general tone, designing ideas, building techniques and cultural contents.
Comfortable Dwelling Conditions and Excellent Lying Environment
Combining the garden and the residence into a whole, the classical gardens of Suzhou provide places suitable not only for sightseeing, but also for dwelling. This kind of building is a clever creation for solving the problem that, on one hand, the city is dense with population but scant of natural scenery and, on the other, man inclines to nature, pursues harmony with it and likes to beautify and perfect his living environments.
The Zhuozheng, Liu and Wangshi gardens and Huanxiu Mountain Villa, covering all types of Suzhou classical gardens and being kept intact, display systematically and completely the characteristic features of Suzhou classical gardening in layout, structure, shape, style, color, decoration and furniture .As representatives of South China folk architecture in the Ming and Qing periods(l4th--early 20th centuries), they demonstrated highly-developed resident culture in the regions south of the Yangtze River, extend influence upon the urban architectural style all over South China, inclined folk architecture to draw close to them in design, layout, aesthetics and building technique, and embodied the scientific and technical level and artistic attainments in the then urban construction.
Rich Contents of Social Culture
An important feature of the Suzhou classical gardens is that, as products of historical culture, they carry information on Chinese traditional ideology and culture. The garden hall names, inscribed horizontal boards, pillar couplets, stone inscriptions, carvings, decorations and tree-nower and rockery-implied meanings all not only serve as exquisite art works for embellishing gardens, but also contain extensive and deep historical, cultural, ideological and scientific deposits in both material and spiritual aspects.
Of them some reflect and propagate the philosophical views of the Confucian, Buddhist and Taoist schools; some tell about philosophy of life for molding lofty sentiments; and some are classical poems or essays, which, while embellishing, enhancing or creating the beauty of garden scenes, trigger off extensive imagination, produce a congenial atmosphere and bring mental satisfaction to the dweller and visitor. Moreover, the manuscripts in the handwriting of celebrated calligraphers collected in the Suzhou gardens constitute a treasure trove of art works and cultural relics.
In addition, the architectural rules of the Suzhou classical gardens as gardenized mansions reflect the life and recreation style and customs of ancient China¡¯s southerners, and provide material data for understanding and studying folklore in olden South China.
Model Works of Gardening
Built in the prime of Suzhou gardening, the Zhuozheng, Liu and Wangshi gardens and Huanxiu Mountain Villa embody fully the national features and artistic attainments of ancient Chinese gardening. Within the limited spaces they took up, their builders applied ingeniously various skills and means, such as contrast, mil, size alteration, structural gradation, juxtapose, scene-borrowing, representing rich contents in a small form and making the less excel the more, and combined halls, towers, pavilions and terraces with springs, rockeries, trees and flowers in imitation of natural landscapes, creating an ideal world with "urban mounts and forests" and "natural beauty amid the bustle of city life."
Thereby, these gardens integrate harmoniously natural, architectural and cultural beauty, furnish people with comfortable living environment, represent a historical height in garden construction, and maintain irreplaceably a prominent position in the developmental history of Chinese and even wor1d gardening.