December 14, 2013

The Lingering Garden in Suzhou, China

Classical Chinese garden design at Liu Yuan


The funny thing with the frigid windchill and impending snow storm is that I'm out of "garden mode."  I'll have to stretch my definition of  "gardening"  for readers over the next 5 (!) months until spring, mercifully, returns to us in Toronto. Which could occur in April 2014, maybe. 

Depressing!

It's good to keep the cold weather in perspective because, if we're completely honest, we tend to moan and gripe about the humidity, heat and bugs assaulting Toronto gardeners in July and August. As a mental exercise, then, see if you can warm up a little by reading this post.

My family visited parts of China in July 2012, eventually ending up in my wife's ancestral village. I posted about our visits to the Summer Palace and Ming Tombs near Beijing  previously under these posts:  "Toronto gardeners need some warmth!" and "Garden muses visits Beijing in July". Now if you ever visited China in July, you darn know well it's hot and humid. No different when we visited Suzhou on the same trip.

Suzhou (pronounced "Sue-Joe") is about 100 km from Shanghai (see this map) and is a major commercial city of about 6 million, give or take a million, in China's Jiangsu province. It's famous for its canals and gardens, or so our tour guide advised us; therefore, off we went to visit the Lingering Garden or Liu Yuan. Although the heat was stifling (around 40 Celsius or upper 90s Fahrenheit humidex), it was an extraordinary experience to see classical Chinese garden design first hand.


Hao Pu Pavilion Lingering Garden Suzhou by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
Hao Pu Pavilion in the Lingering Garden, Suzhou 


The Lingering Garden is one of nine classical gardens in Suzhou designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. According to the UNESCO site,

"Limited to the space within a single residence, classical Suzhou gardens are intended to be a microcosm of the natural world, incorporating basic elements such as water, stones, plants, and various types of buildings of literary and poetic significance. 

The Lingering Garden dates from the end of the 16th century and is the work of Xu Taishi, also a high Imperial official. Its present name was given to it in 1873 by the Zhengs, who paid a graceful tribute to the former owners, the Liu family, since the Chinese word for "lingering" is similar to the name of this fami1y. When Deputy Minister Shi Zhengzhi lived in Suzhou in the late 12th century he called his house "The Fisherman's Retreat," and this idea was picked up in late 18th century by Song Zongyuan when he created the Garden of the Master of the Nets....

The central part features mountain and lake scenery, encircled by buildings and visited by means of a narrow, winding path which gives unexpected views of great beauty."

(Source: Classical Gardens of Suzhou


I completely agree with the last paragraph in the above quote! Let me know what you think.


Hanbi Mountain Villa Lingering Garden Suzhou by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
Hanbi Mountain Villa in the Lingering Garden, Suzhou

Lingering Garden in Suzhou rock by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden in Suzhou, example of ornamental rock 

Lingering Garden in Suzhou rock garden by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden in Suzhou rock garden. 

Compare the permanent grotesque nature of the rockery (the rougher, the better in Chinese gardens) and the softer temporary nature of the bamboo and sedges.

You might not pick it out but there's a crane mosaic in the pebble tiling, lower centre of the picture.





Lingering Garden Suzhou bamboo path by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden in Suzhou, down a path with bamboo 



Lingering Garden Suzhou bonsai by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
Example of bonsai in the Lingering Garden, Suzhou 


Lingering Garden Suzhou path by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
A verdant path in the Lingering Garden, Suzhou 


Lingering Garden, Suzhou detail of pebble path.


Another example of the importance of the  "bones"/hardscape/structure or whatever you want to label the harder and permanent elements in the garden.

Visually interesting and makes for a nice contrast between the smooth pebble tiling versus the rough rockery making up the side retaining walls.

It's not always about pretty flowers!


Lingering Garden Suzhou rock by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
Example of specimen rock at the Lingering Garden, Suzhou




Lingering Garden Suzhou rock garden by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden, Suzhou rock garden 



Lingering Garden Suzhou signage by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden, Suzhou signage.


Translation between languages is often imperfect so I won't be snarky about the "Chinglish" signs like this one throughout the garden. The sentiment is noble, don't you think?

[Editor: Serendipity (aka Google search) allowed me to stumbled upon another blogger who lives in Suzhou and also posted about the same signs in her blog entry titled: The Signage of the Lingering Garden. Her blog called "Year in Suzhou" makes for excellent reading if you want to learn more about the people in the area.]



Lingering Garden Suzhou water lilies by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden, Suzhou blooming water lilies 



Lingering Garden Suzhou water lily by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden, Suzhou water lily blooms in detail. 

I can never get enough of water lily photos....





Rock garden Lingering Garden Suzhou by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
Rock garden in the  Lingering Garden, Suzhou.


I'm a huge fan of walled gardens and this picture gives the impression that we're in another room.




Suzhou Lingering Garden rock garden by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
Suzhou Lingering Garden rock garden.


Monochromatic greys of the rocks and greens of the sedges and trees forced me to sit, reflect and, yes, linger.







View from Hao Pu Pavilion Lingering Garden Suzhou by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
View from Hao Pu Pavilion in the Lingering Garden, Suzhou.


The bridge originating from the left of this photo is covered with wisteria so you can imagine the blooms earlier in the year. I imagine this scene wouldn't be too shabby in the fall either. 



If I had a million dollars...as the song goes...





View to Pellucid Tower Lingering Garden Suzhou by garden muses-Toronto gardening blog
View towards the Pellucid Tower in the Lingering Garden, Suzhou






Well, at least I warmed up a little reminiscing about that day in Suzhou!



By Paul Jung, author of "garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog" Google Google Find us on Google+