The city of Suzhou has always been called "Paradise on Earth". It is China's well-known "city of gardens", which tops all others in both the number and the artistry of gardens.
Dating from Pi Jiang Garden of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, Suzhou's art of gardening has undergone a history of 1500 years. Gardens in Suzhou are not large, but are fascinating in their delicate design, containing hills and ponds, pavilions, terraces, corridors and towers. There were once over 200 gardens in the city, and 69 of them are still in good reservation today. Called the Venice of the East, Suzhou's high water table supplies the vast number of ponds and streams found throughout the city and it is these ponds that serve to focus the many elements of the garden within a small space.
The concept of Suzhou classical gardens has gone beyond the city limits, since it generally refers to all those private gardens built in the regions south of the Yangtze.
The Suzhou gardens originated from the desire to retire from the strife of officialdom and to shun from worldly affairs. It seeks the return to Nature and the cultivation of temperament. In Taoist philosophy and the refinement of culture underlies the theme of the garden. Hills and waters, flowers and trees, pavilions, terraces, towers and halls constitute the basic garden elements, while the prominent tone is expressed in the dark color of roof tiles, the gray of bricks, and chestnut brown of wooden pillars.
Suzhou gardens are the Nature in nutshell, which enables one to "feel the charm of mountains, forest and springs without going out of the noisy surroundings of the town". Its human interest also lies in that the architect, philosopher, poet, painter, and common people can all find in it the idea, the flavor, the lines and the rhythm. The unfolding of the garden vistas is the verisimilitude of a landscape scroll. When enjoying tea, poem, and flower arrangement or playing musical instrument in the garden, one gains the most natural inspiration. To those tourists desiring to understand China, Suzhou gardens are the best museum.
Gardens in Suzhou are precious heritage of Chinese history and world history.
Oriental Venice Rebuilds Landscaped Gardens
Landscaped Gardens in east China's Suzhou City, known as the "Oriental Venice " because of the legendary Italian traveler Marco Polo, is attracting an uninterrupted flow of visitors from both home and abroad.
While marveling at the delicate design containing hills, ponds, pavilions, terraces, corridors and towers, most visitors to the 2, 500-year-old city in Jiangsu Province probably don't know that these picturesque gardens, now on the World Heritage list, were almost completely destroyed before the founding of New China in 1949.
But for the efforts by the government and the local people's love for traditional Chinese architectural art, the gardens wouldn 't have been restored and renovated to its original splendor, said Xie Xiaosi, a 95-year-old resident in Suzhou.
The gardens of Suzhou can be dated back as early as about 514 B.C. when the city was built. There were as many as 200 gardens dotted in the city in its prime during the 16th to 18th centuries.
The gardens have long been considered as the quintessence of Chinese horticulture. The World Heritage Committee refers to Suzhou as the cradle of horticulture in the world.
Many of these gardens, however, suffered serious damage from wars in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The "Garden of Leisure," for example, built in 1596 with an area of 20,000 square meters, was destroyed by the Japanese invaders.
In the early 1950s, a huge campaign was launched to restore the gardens of Suzhou. The best craftsmen from all over China were called in to restore historical doors, windows, bricks, tiles and furniture as well as calligraphy and paintings in the gardens.
In the last 20 years, 200 million yuan has been spent on restoring the gardens. A number of research institutes have also been actively involved in the restoration work.
Suzhou gardens were put on UNESCO's World Heritage list in December 1997.