Suzhou, a small city located just 30 minutes outside Shanghai, is world-renowned for its classical Chinese gardens. Commissioned by wealthy merchants, officials and scholars between the 11th and 19th centuries, these gardens depict China’s most stunning natural landscapes on a miniature scale. Around seventy classical gardens are preserved and open to visitors in Suzhou today. Nine have even been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Here are our favorites:
Best Suzhou Gardens – Humble Administrator’s Garden
Though the name says humble, this is actually the largest and most famous classical garden in the city. It was created in 1509 and is nearly 14 acres in size. In Humble Administrator’s Garden, you’ll find many interconnecting ponds that flow beneath eloquent stone bridges. Remember though that with fame come crowds, and you’ll likely run into more than a few people at Humble Administrator’s Garden if you visit at the weekend or over a national holiday.
Best Suzhou Gardens – Master of the Nets Garden
First we saw the largest, now let’s talk about the smallest.
Built in the 12th century, Master of the Nets Garden is one of the most impressive demonstrations of a classical garden – a pocket-sized design executed with delicate precision. One sight not to miss is the Rosy Cloud Pool, which is located in the center. The buildings are all assembled around the pool which makes it appear larger than it actually is. The area to the south had been dedicated to social gatherings, while the north was used for intellectual activities. Which one fits your garden-visiting style?
Best Suzhou Gardens – Great Wave Pavilion
Another of Suzhou’s smaller gardens, Great Wave Pavilion is among the least crowded of the UNESCO awarded gardens. It connects with a free museum and has a more relaxed, secluded vibe. There are 108 “windows” to find around the garden, each with their own ̧unique design. If you’re a fan of serene forests and lotus ponds, you’ll like Great Wave Pavilion.
Best Suzhou Gardens – Lingering Garden
Lingering Garden is about 5.8 acres in size and has the archetypical Qing style, complete with beautiful halls and buildings of various size, shapes, and colors. Some of the garden’s halls are used as residences and temples and each section is joined together by long, decorated halls.
Best Suzhou Gardens – Lion Grove Garden
This garden is famous for its collection of maze-like taihu rocks, a number of which resemble the shape of a lion. There are not many surviving rock gardens from the pages of history so Lion Grove is particularly special. The garden is broken up into two parts: rockery around a central pond, and a housing complex. It also has a maze of paths tunnelling through 21 caves. There is a lot to look out for in Lion Grove which makes it a great option for families. It is one of the more popular classical gardens in Suzhou so visit early in the day to avoid crowds.