Suzhou is an ancient city situated in eastern China. It is city that has experienced historical changes, the revival of Jiangnan (the area of the southern Yangtze River) and a splendid development for over 2,500 years. It is the city that has cultivated so many distinctive poets and architects. It is the city that my heart always belongs to.
The well-known Summer Palace in Beijing is the Chinese garden for the royal family, while Suzhou gardens are for civilians. The earliest garden—Canglang Garden, quietly located beside the old city moat – was constructed in the Spring and Autumn period in the 6th century B.C. During the prosperous Ming and Qing dynasties, over 200 gardens, mostly for the retired court functionaries, were built in Suzhou. Surviving through the Great Cultural Revolution from 1965 to 1975, Suzhou gardens, representing invaluable historical treasures, were fortunately protected by the government.
When you step into the wooden door of a typical Suzhou garden, you would find that it is a miniature of a mysterious world with streams, rockery, flowers and traditional pavilions. You may hear magpies singing and smell the delicate fragrance of camellias. Designed with black brick-made roofs and white walls, Suzhou gardens are like calligraphy paintings, leading every tourist into a world of harmony and peace. In China, an old saying goes, “just as there is paradise in heaven, there are Suzhou and Hangzhou on earth.” That is why Suzhou Gardens are called “ The Earthly Paradises”.
Here are three primary elements in Suzhou gardens as follows:
Though Suzhou gardens were created by humans, they were still constructed naturally by arranging tea trees, flowers, shrubs, streams, and rockery. A variety of Jiangnan flowers like roses and jasmines as well as tea trees were grown in the gardens and lotus flowers in the central pond. Among the plants, some unique limestones with wrinkled and slender shape were positioned ingeniously, hauled from Lake Tai, one of the famous five fresh lakes in China. Those stones have naturally distinctive styles, representing natural gifts and good luck.
The superb buildings in Suzhou gardens are constructed surrounding the central pond, mainly decorated with black brick roofs and white walls and connected with long corridors. When you step into the building, you could see the different rooms inside for reading, painting, playing the Guqin (a traditional Chinese musical instrument), sleeping and so forth. Every part of the room was carefully ornamented with plants and carved with traditional patterns like some geometric figures and plum blossoms. With traditional furnishing, these exquisitely decorated buildings create a peaceful and elegant atmosphere, bringing you to the ancient Suzhou society.
Cultural connotations in Suzhou Gardens convey a tremendous amount of information about Chinese culture. Composing the balance between nature and buildings, the consistence of decoration and color, and the distinction of every scene, Suzhou gardens perfectly merge ancient Chinese culture, philosophy, society and aesthetics.
Every plant, flower, bridge, limestone in the garden represent the essence of spirit and wisdom of ancient Chinese architects. If you come to China, Suzhou gardens are the attractions that you should come and visit. Like twinkling pearls in Lake Tai, Suzhou gardens are the invaluable backyards of the palace named “Chinese Culture.”