Suzhou With Its Garden

Such is her beauty that, like Hangzhou, the city of Suzhou has often been called paradise on earth. Suzhou, in east China’s Jiangsu Province, enjoys a particular renown for her landscaped gardens. Over 150 in number, some are more than one thousand years old. Before liberation they were privately owned by high officials, landlords and other Wealthy men and concealed behind high wails islands of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. During the war, some of the gardens were used by Japanese invaders as horse stables. With the founding of New China they have been restored and renovated for the enjoyment of the people.

The gardens are not large but arc fascinating in their delicate design, containing hills and ponds, pavilions, terraces, corridors and towers. Called the Venice of the East, Suzhou’s high water table supplies the vast number of ponds and streams found throughout the city and it is these ponds that serve to focus the many elements of the garden within a small space.

Canglangting(Pavilion of the Surging Waves) is enjoyed for its peaceful scenery and simple architecture. It was built some nide hundred years ago by the scholar Su Zimei who had just lost his official position and decided to buy a small piece of land in Suzhou on which to build a residence. That part of Suzhou which he chose was known for its beauty. This garden is a fine example showing how the natural land scape both inside and outside could be merged. Long corridors follow the banks of the green water-pond just outside the garden. Walking along the outer edges of these corridors you feel as if you are a part of the scenery outside the garden; old men fish from platforms at the bends in the corridors. Turn toward the inner edge of the corridors and through the windows of the brick wall you can see in the distance waving trees, bamboos and flowers among the rockeries and pavilions inside the garden. Liuyuan (Garden to Linger In) was constructed in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and is three hectares in size. Winding throughout tile garden is a 7oo-meter long corridor, on the walls of which are a great number of stone carvings and windows.

Within the garden is “Yet Another Village”; a winding path with a trellised grape vine canopy. All along the path are hundreds of potted flowers and trees, some as much as three hundred years old. Liuyuan boasts the largest rock in Suzhou. It is six and a half meters high, weighs five tons and was trans- ported from Lake Taihu four hundred years ago. Because of its height and shape it was named “Cloud capped Peak”. Limestone boulders like this were quarried from mountains around the lake and sunk in it where they stayed, eroding into strange shapes with cavities and grooves. These arc the rocks that are used in the landscaping of many famous gardens throughout the country.

The smallest of all the Suzhou gardens is Wangshi (Fisher- man) Garden. Its former owner, professing to be above polities, styled himself a fisherman.

Within this half a hectare of land a small bamboo hut was erected to serve as a study. It is decorated with palace lanterns and scrolls of calligraphy and painting. In front of it peonies grow in abundance. Most fascinating is the small yard, only two meters across, separating the study from the back wall. Bamboo, banana and winter-sweet grow in this tiny garden among artificial rocks and hills. The three windows of the study frame the garden into Chinese landscape paintings. A section of this garden is being reproduced at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Outside Suzhou at Huqiu Hill (Tiger Hill) an ancient King is said to ]lave been buried some 2,400 years ago with his treasures: three thousand famous swords, stores of gold and jade. The tomb was built in secret and its entrance is still unfound. Later rulers traveled to Suzhou to search for the tomb and its buried treasure and they all failed.