Suzhou 苏州


Next stop in my Shanghai area trip after Hangzhou (see previous article), Suzhou.

Suzhou also has a very ancient history dating back to 500 BC, it is sometimes known as the “Venice of the East”. God knows how many Venice there are in the world but basically every town with waterways is the Venice of something.

That being said, Suzhou is mostly known for its 234 gardens, that locals can visit once each for the modest price of ¥100 (approx 10 EUR) for a year.

I only visited 3 of these gardens in half a day I had in the city, all identified as UNESCO world heritage sites, and all I can say is it is well deserved.

High Speed Train

First a word on trains: i’ve had the pleasure of being able to travel between Hangzhou, Suzhou and Shanghai using the high speed train – due to arrive Hong Kong in 2017 (?), and travelling at 300km/h. Chinese train stations actually look like airports by their sheer dimensions. G86C6077 G86C6076 G86C6074 Quite luxurious “Sightseeing First Class” cabin. G86C5877

Suzhou Waterways

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G86C6057Humble Administrator’s Gardens 拙政園

One of the bigger gardens, this site dates back to about 1100 AD – see wikipedia for more info G86C5888 G86C5886 G86C5885 G86C5889 G86C5891 G86C5892 G86C5893 G86C5903 Now i’ve become a master at knowing Ming vs Qing dynasty furniture styles! The first two are Qing, the last is more Ming style. G86C5912 Note the gardens are always associated with intellectual owners, often high-ranking officials, and therefore have places for reception, teaching for children, and artistic works: calligraphy, painting… the atmosphere of these gardens is of course very well adapted to meditating on the beauty of nature, the quiet atmosphere makes it a perfect place to reflect on the affairs of the province or state, study or paint. G86C5929

Master of Nets Garden 網師園

There was a time during Mongolian invasions when being a scholar and a state official was not really good for your career path; the intellectuals of this time therefore all declared themselves as fishermen – probably the most quiet and contemplating job that was not threatening to the conqueror’s administration. Wikipedia link here. The owner of this garden therefore ironically called his garden the garden of the “master of nets”. You’re greeted with a jade map of the garden when entering: G86C5940     As well as a 500kg Sedan chair – the rolls-royce of the time, needing no less than 8 bearers (that still makes 62kg each). Anyway, the fine details are worth admiring if not the principle of the sedan chair. G86C5957   These gardens were made for enjoyment of life, and still serve this purpose, people seem to linger around for hours, reading, or just looking.G86C5952 G86C5955   Chiang Kai Shek resided here, not exactly popular in communist China, but not obliterated either. G86C5951These people are practicing the art of Kunqu Opera, which does actually sound nice (compared to Beijing opera that is barely tolerable to the western ear – and maybe Chinese ears as well actually).

Lingering Gardens 留園

Definitely my favourite of the 3 gardens,  Liú Yuán garden is the most scenic of all three: Wikipedia link here. G86C5968 G86C5970 G86C5976 G86C6004 G86C6002 G86C5994 G86C5988 G86C5981 G86C5943 Pen zais 盆栽 are present in many of these gardens, the art was actually invented by Chinese before being more widely known as Bonsais after the Japanese name. G86C6037 G86C6034 Incredible miniature scene, much like traditional Chinese ink paintings:G86C6032 G86C6031 G86C6030 G86C6029 G86C6018 G86C6013   Watch the Hangzhou & Suzhou video here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bx6lOkTyhz4gWWd1VERiMl9XemM/edit?usp=sharing

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