It could hardly be called humble…

Suzhou is famous for its gardens and the big daddy is the Humble Administrator’s Garden.  At almost 52,000 square metres (13 acres) and just reaching its 500th birthday, it is considered one of the four great gardens of China.

The garden was built by Wang Xiancheng, an imperial envoy and poet of the Ming Dynasty.  Planning his retirement from public life, and in the midst of a corruption investigation, Wang appropriated an existing temple and set about making a big garden within which he could live out his later years.

He was inspired by passage within Pan Yue’s Idler’s Prose that translates something like: “to cultivate my garden and sell my vegetable crop is the policy of a humble man”.  If he required over 5 hectares just for his vege patch, Wang must have had the biggest carbon footprint in the whole of the Ming Dynasty.  Not humble.

And it seems that a lack of humility could be genetic.  Wang’s son had to sell the garden after racking up too many gambling debts.

Like all Chinese gardens, within its perimeter wall, the Humble Administrator’s Garden contains a central lake surrounded by hilly terrain, with a scattering of small buildings and pavilions linked by pathways and corridors.  The lake was frozen when we visited.

The garden is arranged in three distinct sections, an arrangement which facilitated the subsequent subdivision of the garden.  After a range of different owners, the garden was reunified and restored in the mid-1950s.

While out visit was kinda rushed and absolutely freezing, the garden provided a very enjoyable environment to wander in, with a variety of spaces, inside and outside, and lots of places to take in the surrounding landscape.  As such, the pavilions and gardens have all sorts of magical names, including the Hall of Drifting Fragrance, the Listening to the Sound of Rain Pavilion, the Think Deep Aim High area, the Pavilion of Leaning Against the Rainbow, the Magnolia Hall, the Orange Pavilion, the Stay-and-Listen Pavilion, the Hall of 36 Pairs of Mandarin Ducks and the With Whom Shall I Sit? Pavilion.

This one is the Celestial Spring Pavilion.

And this is the Looking Far Away Pavilion, perched on a hilltop and intended for … looking far away.

With all these spaces for contemplation and looking and sitting, I wonder how Wang got any gardening done.  But I guess he had a big workforce, cultivating his garden and selling his vegetables and keeping him on the path of a humble life.


4 Responses to It could hardly be called humble…

  1. Gabriela says:

    What a magical place! But interesting not many people around? Maybe the cold?

    • Definitely the cold … it was about zero degree when we visited! In addition though, I generally wait patiently for people to move out of shot before I take my photos. People are so messy looking. 🙂

  2. Justin says:

    Very good photos of this attractive garden and well done for your patience in the cold.

  3. Pingback: My first year in Shangers | That Look Crayzy!

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