The beautiful city of Suzhou is renowned for its incredible classical gardens. The largest garden and one of the most famous is the Humble Administrator’s Garden. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of Suzhou’s nine famous masterpieces of classical Chinese garden design. Considered by many as the finest garden in all of southern China, the Humble Administrator's Garden is a must-see attraction.
- Humble Administrator's Garden is located at 178 Northeast Street, Gusu District, in Suzhou.
- First built during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 to 1279), it is considered an incredible example of Jiangnan classical garden design.
- Divided into three sections, the garden covers an area of 12.84 acres (5.195 ha).
- In 1997, designated the classical gardens of Suzhou, including the Humble Administrator’s Garden, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
History Of Humble Administrator's Garden
The original site of the garden was constructed in the Shaoxing period (1131 to 1162) during the Southern Song Dynasty. During the Yuan Dynasty (1271 to 1368), the site became known as the Dahong Temple’s garden. Over the coming centuries, the garden changed ownership, and sustained substantial destruction.
The Humble Administrator's Garden in 1509 during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644), by a former imperial envoy, Wang Xianchen. He constructed the garden on the original site of the dilapidated Dahong Temple site. Frustrated by his career in the Imperial court, Wang Xianchen chose to retire from public office. He wanted to live a quite life, surrounded by nature, tending to and cultivating a garden – hence the name of the garden. Throughout the 16th century, many paintings and poems were created about the Humble Administrator Garden.
Unfortunately, Wang Xianchen’s son lost possession of the garden what for gambling debts. Over the next century, it was divided into sections and changed hands several times. In 1631, the eastern portion of the Humble Administrator's Garden was divided from the rest, and purchased by the Vice Minister of the Justice Board, Wang Xinyi. He undertook a major reconstruction, which was completed in 1635.
During the 18th century, the central and western sections of the garden were also divided. In 1738, the Governor of Jiangsu, Jiang Qi, purchased the central garden. He had it rebuilt and renamed ‘Garden Rebuilt’, after substantial reconstructions. Likewise in 1738, Ye Shikuan, a chief historian, purchased the western section of the site. He has it remodeled, and also renamed it ‘The Garden of Books’. A century and a half later, a prominent Suzhou merchant named, Zhang Lüqian, purchased the Garden of Books. In 1877, he renamed it ‘The Subsidiary Garden’.
In the early 20th century, the garden was repaired extensively. In 1949, all three sections were once again reunited by the Chinese government, and renamed the Humble Administrator’s Garden. Subsequently, it was opened as a public park.
Culture Of Humble Administrator's Garden
The entirety of the garden is comprised of the Central, Eastern, and Western portions, in addition to a total of 48 buildings and bridges. All three garden sections are formed around a large, serene lake.
Eastern Garden: At over 21,000 square meters, this is the largest of the three garden sections. The Eastern Garden contains a large pond, with dense pine and bamboo forests. It has a more natural, wild beauty than other two gardens. The main building in this section is Lanxue Tang (the Orchid and Snow Hall), which features a humungous map of the Humble Administrator's Garden on one of its walls. Other structures in this section of the garden include Furong Xie (the Lotus Pavilion) and Tianquan Ting (known as the Heavenly Spring Pavilion).
Central Garden: This is considered the central portion of the Humble Administrator's Garden. Over one-third of this section is covered by water. A large pond surrounded by thick trees is situated in the centre, dotted with three islands. Yuanxiang Tang (the Hall of Distant Fragrance) is the main structure in this section. This structure was built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1711 to 1799) during the Qing dynasty. The original bluestone foundation survives from this period. Named for the pool of lotuses located nearby, visitors who come during the summer months can enjoy the wonderful aroma of the flowers.
Close to the hall, is Xiaofeihong (the Small Flying Rainbow Bridge), which is the only bridge in Humble Administrator Garden that can be crossed.
Western Garden: this section of Humble Administrator's Garden is most renowned for its magnificent architecture. The most famous building in this section is the ‘Mandarin Duck Hall’, located in the southern portion of the garden. The ornately decorated hall is divided into two sections by an enormous screen. The northern part is used as an observation deck for the lotus flowers during summer. The southern part of the building is referred to as Shiba Mantuoluohua Guan (Hall of 18 Camellias).
- March through to November is the best time to visit Humble Administrator's Garden. Many flower exhibitions take place during these months, including the lotus exhibition.
- The garden is located in the centre of Suzhou, can easily accessible by bus or taxi.
- Located in the southern portion of Humble Administrator's Garden, is Suzhou Garden Museum. It is the only garden-themed museum in China, and worth the visit if you have time.