Classical Gardens of Suzhou

Suzhou, a city to the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, enjoys a worldwide reputation for its delicate and classical gardens. Most of the gardens were built for private use by aristocrats and rich businessmen and date back to the sixth Century BC. Their design went through an active period during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). By the time of the latter years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a large number of classical gardens were spread across Suzhou as well as its suburbs. Ten of them are still in a good state of preservation, including the Humble Administrator's Garden (Zhuo Zheng Yuan), the Lingering Garden (Liu Yuan), the Master of Nets Garden (Wang Shi Yuan), the Villa with Embracing Beauty (Huanxiu Mountain Villa), the Canglang Pavilion (Blue Wave Pavilion), the Lion Grove Garden (Shizilin), the Garden of Pleasance (Yi Garden), the Couple's Retreat Garden (Ou Yuan) and others. The first four of these exhibit a typical character of classical gardens such as structure, style, cultural attainment, aesthetics and arrangement of the furniture. For this reason they have been included in UNESCO's World Heritage List since the end of 1997.
Lingering Garden (Liu Garden)
Lingering Garden
Humble Administrator
Humble Administrator's Garden
In general, the gardens are comprised of two parts - a residential section and a garden. In order to replicate a natural environment on a miniature scale but to be full of life, pavilions, ponds, bridges, rockeries, stones and fragrant flowers are added. The artistic layout is combined perfectly with Chinese philosophy and ideology to exhibit an architectural culture of the Orient. In a small plot each component is designed delicately and arranged orderly by the accomplished gardeners to show their creativity. Lyric pictures and poems are reflected in the themes of the gardens to evoke mountains and natural springs requiring the visitor only to observe the seasonal change of plants and water.

Strolling inside, visitors experience an elegant cultural aura which has almost disappeared from modern life. Steles and parallel couplets of halls or names of rooms sometimes show the masters' aspirations, interests, and ideals or followings of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian thoughts or philosophy. Using unique skills combining architecture with the surrounding scenery, artisans created gardens that are tranquil havens away from the world's turmoil. Very often visitors think they have reached the last building of a garden, only to discover another harmonious landscape when they pass through the room and along a zigzag corridor. Each door and window of the rooms is decorated with carvings. Looking through the incised window, a lush green waterscape unfolds itself before your eyes while a babbling stream mirrors singing birds on a stone bridge. When a pavement winds along mountain ridges, visitors will see a different view. In the living rooms, the rosewood furniture is simple but very elegant. Valuable works of calligraphy and paintings are displayed. Residential rooms are usually decorated with Suzhou-styled bonsais and parallel couplets. The classical gardens, as assemblies of residences and gardens, demonstrate the living habits and etiquette of ancient Chinese peoples of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River.
Canglang Pavilion
Canglang Pavilion
Lion Grove Garden
Lion Grove Garden
Classical gardens of Suzhou are the cultural and the artistic essence of folk architecture in China. This can only be appreciated by visiting them, and thus to understand why Suzhou is called 'Paradise on Earth'.

Suzhou Bus Search

 Related Reading
Weekend Trips from Shanghai
- Last modified on Mar. 07, 2019 -
Questions & Answers on Classical Gardens of Suzhou
Asked by Gina Holley from AUSTRALIA | Feb. 24, 2018 20:20Reply
I love gardens and plants and don't want to rush around. No. of days in Suzhou?
I want to "absorb" the atmosphere of the gardens and attractions of the city. How many days would you recommend?
Thanks Gina
Answers (1)
Answered by Liela from USA | Feb. 25, 2018 21:08

4-5 days is enough for your SZ tour! Attractions like Humble Administrator’s Garden, Tiger Hill, Lingering Garden, Lion Grove Garden, SZ Museum, Hanshan Temple… are recommended! Since you love gardens, you can roam around as long as you wish.
Asked by P AKERS from CANADA | Feb. 08, 2017 23:30Reply
How long does it take to get from near Fuxing park shanghai to Suzhou gardens?
how long should I allow to visit the gardens? is it possible to see SZ & Hangzhou in a single day & get back to Shanghai for the night?
Answers (3)
Answered by Sally from CANADA | Feb. 09, 2017 03:19

These three cities have been connected by bullet train and there are many of them each day. It takes about an hour from Shanghai to SZ and 1.5 hours from SZ to Hangzhou, so touring them in a single day is possible. However, if you do so, you won't have much time to enjoy the attractions, which is not recommended. For the exact train schedules, you may search the train page on the website you are visiting.
Answered by P AKERS from CANADA | Feb. 09, 2017 11:09

Denise I see there are a number of gardens & have been told not to miss the Humble Administrators; are there closing times for the gardens or are they open during the evening? I will take the full day (go to Hangzhou on a separate day) - what ones do you recommend I see?
Answered by Joyce from BELGIUM | Feb. 18, 2017 20:21

Besides the Humble Administrator's Garden, you are also advised to visit the Lingering Garden, but I remember both gardens will be closed by 17:00 or so. Make sure you well arrange yout time.
In addition, you can also go to the Tiger Hill.
Asked by Pramono J from ID | Jan. 13, 2015 09:12Reply
I plan go to Suzhou for one day visit, which attractions that close to subway
Answers (3)
Answered by Nadia from RUSSIA | Jan. 13, 2015 19:53

There are not many attractions along the subway line in SZ. SZ Amusement Park is One, but it is not famous. Couple's Retreat Garden is relatively closer, but you still need to walk about 950 yards from subway station.

Actually, SZ is not a big city. The transportation is convenient. And those well-known attractions are distributed not far from each other. So city bus is also a good choice.
Answered by Pramono J from ID | Jan. 14, 2015 00:33

Thanks Nadia,

I see from the Suzhou subway map in line 5, there is Humble Administrator's Garden station, whether it is close to the Humble Administrator's Garden Area???

Answered by Nadia | Jan. 14, 2015 00:45

Only line 1 and line 2 are in service. Other lines are still under construction, including line 5.
Asked by Ms. Sharon from USA | May. 01, 2014 09:09Reply
Visisting gardens in Suzhou
My husband and I are staying in Shanghai for a few days in May. We are interested in hiring an English speaking guide to go with us to SZ Gardens for the day. Could someone make recommendations of a guide? How much should we expect to pay?
Answers (2)
Answered by Joan from ITALY | May. 07, 2014 02:45

I don't know such a tour guide either, but I know many resources are available at the community of Travel China Guide. You may try to search. Or you can post your demand at that forum. People who are interested in the service will contact you!

I heard the English speaking private tour guide charges CNY500-600 per day there for your reference!
Answered by SK from GERMANY | Dec. 28, 2014 20:23

you can get even at a 5-star hotel like kempinski a tour guide for 300 per day.
Asked by Lily | Mar. 12, 2014 07:58Reply
How far is the Humble Administrator’s Garden from the Suzhou Railway station?

Is it too much to walk this distance?
Answers (2)
Answered by Harry from USA | Mar. 13, 2014 03:51

It is around 3.5km, so I think it is too much for walking.
It is suggested to take a taxi to reach directly and the taxi fare is around 13RMB.
Answered by Sadhwi from INDIA | Oct. 19, 2018 06:55

Nice talk about the garden
Ask a Question
Question Summary (100 characters)
Details (optional) (2,000 characters)