Couple's Retreat Garden (Ou Yuan)

Couple''s Retreat Garden
Couple's Retreat Garden
 Pictures of Couple's Retreat Garden
The Couple's Retreat Garden is located on Xiaoxinqiao Lane, Cangjie Street of Suzhou City. It is built based on the original Sheyuan Garden, which was constructed by Lu Jin in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The Couple's Retreat Garden is representative and outstanding among the classical gardens of Suzhou. It is no wonder that the scenery here is so enchanting. It covers an area of 2 acres (12 mu) and features green mountains, water, rockeries, exquisite pavilions and halls, towers, beautiful trees and flowers. At present, Suzhou has put much importance on it and it was added to the UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2000.

In ancient Chinese, 'ou' means cultivating the land by two persons, so that the garden's name implies that a couple retreat to the countryside and lead a peaceful life there. The Couple's Retreat Garden consists of a large mansion and smaller houses built in the middle of the layout with two gardens to the east and the west, respectively. On three sides it is surrounded by a canal. The garden now boasts 24 buildings, 21 tablets and couplets, brick carvings and precious ancient trees. The imposing scenic spots are the Eastern and Western Gardens, Yellow Stone Rockeries, and City Corner Thatched Cottage. Among these attractions the Yellow Stone Rockeries are the principal scenic area.
 
 

History

In the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), an official named Lu Jin built Sheyuan Garden, which is the original form of the Eastern Garden, also called 'Xiaoyulin (Small Yu Grove)'. However, it was destroyed by wars later. In the years of the Emperor Tongzhi (1856-1875), Shen Bingcheng (1822-1895), a senior official from Huzhou bought the site, and expanded it by building the Western Garden. Shen Bingcheng and his wife both were fond of classical Chinese culture and lived harmoniously, so the whole garden (including the mansion and the Eastern and Western gardens) was called the Couple's Retreat Garden. In the years of the Emperor Guangxu (1871-1908), the garden was abandoned for a period. Later on, it was let out as a residence. In 1939, Qianmu, a famous historian lived in the Eastern Garden with his family. The next year, Liu Guojun, an industrialist in Changzhou, bought the Couple's Retreat Garden. In the year 1980, the garden was opened to the public and became a key cultural relic at the city-level.
Pavilion in Ouyuan
Pavilion Surrounded by Hills and Water
Rockery Made of Stone Lake
Rockery Made of Lake Stones
 

Eastern Garden

After entering the gate, visitors can walk along the winding corridors towards the east to the Eastern Garden, which covers an area of 0.89 acres (5.4 mu). It features hills and ponds. The principal building of the Eastern Garden is a hall with double-eave roofs and faces south. In the southeast corner stands City Corner Thatched Cottage, a place where the owners feasted their guests. To the west of the cottage tourists can see Chuxiang (meaning storing fragrance) House, Tenghua (Wisteria Flower) Boat House, etc. While to the southeast tourists can visit the famous Shuangzhao Tower, which is connected with many beautiful and unique pavilions and towers, such as Wangyue (admiring the moon) Pavilion, Wu'ai (my lovable) Pavilion, Tingyan Tower, and so on.

Before the hall of City Corner Thatched Cottage is the Yellow Stone Rockery. This man-made hill is natural and vivid. From the big eastern part of the rockery, tourists can arrive on the platform on the east side on the hill and the stone chamber on the west side, by walking along the stone path in front of the cottage's hall. On the east side of the platform, the peak of the hill descends and ends in a precipice. At the foot of the precipice is a pool. Visitors can get to the pool by a passage on the east side of the precipice. This scenery is the most imposing in the garden. The western part of the rockery, contrastingly, is small and descends gradually to the west, ending in the right wall of the City Corner Thatched Cottage's hall.
Thatched Cottage
City Corner Thatched Cottage
Old House
Old House With Woven Curtains
 

Middle Mansion

The middle mansion here is like any other ancient mansion in Suzhou. The entire mansion has four terraces, each of which consists of lobby, guest hall and main hall. On the east and west sides of the mansion lie the wing-rooms. That is the main residence of the owners. Facing the gate of the Couple's Retreat Garden is a big courtyard. To the east of the courtyard is the tracery wall, and in the north of the garden is a circular door.
 
 

Western Garden

Another attraction is the Western Garden. Platforms, lakes, and rockeries are constructed in its front. On the east side is Heshou (longevity) Pavilion and on the north side is a library. Its principal building is a study called the Old House With Woven Curtains, which is three-room's wide and is surrounded by rockeries and piled stones symbolizing the mountains around this building. What's more, the rockeries feature escalades on them and caves under them, along with a broad platform and flower gardens, making up a beautiful and tranquil environment. The whole design implies a couple retreating to the forests on mountains, reading and working together, enjoying a peaceful and harmonious life.

Since the climate in Suzhou is mild and wet with four distinctive seasons, the Couple's Retreat Garden is open all the year round. The best visiting time is from April to October, when the scenery is especially attractive. As visitors stroll through the Garden, they will enjoy interesting free performances of folk music and Pingtan (a folk art form combining story telling and ballad singing of Suzhou, usually performed by two actors) all year round. This is a good place for visitors to enjoy sights, relax and learn about Chinese classical garden culture.
 
 

Transportation

 By Rail Transit
Take Rail Transit Line 1 and get off at Xiangmen Station. Go out via Exit 3 and walk northward on Cangjie Street for about 700 yards (640 meters).
 By Bus
1. Take bus no. 301 or 305 and then get off at Dongyuan Station (Eastern Garden Station). Walk to the south on Cangjie Street for around 600 yards (550 meters).
2. Take bus no. 2, 9, 32, 40, 60, 89, 112, 146, 178, 200, 261, 307, 518, 800, 900, or tourist bus no. 5 and then get off at Xiangmen Station.
 Suzhou Bus Search
 
Admission Fee Apr. 16 - Oct. 30: CNY 25; Oct. 31 - Apr. 15: CNY 20
Opening Hours 07:30 ~ 17:00
 
 

Recommended Nearby Attractions

 Suzhou Zoo
 Pingjiang Road