Lingering Garden & Chinese Gardens of Suzhou

Lingering Garden (simplified Chinese: 留园; pinyin: Liú Yuán) is a renowned Chinese classical garden, located in Suzhou City. In 1997, the garden, along with other classical gardens in Suzhou, was recorded by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as a World Heritage Site.

live performance in the lingering garden

The Chinese Garden is a place for solitary or social contemplation of nature. Chinese gardens were created in the same way as a combination of landscape and paintings together with poems – this was the so-called “poetic garden.” The design of Chinese gardens was to provide a spiritual  utopia  for one to connect with nature, to come back to one’s inner heart, to come back to ancient idealism.

Chinese gardens are a spiritual  shelter for men, a place they could be far away from their real social lives, and close to the ancient way of life, their true selves, and nature. This was an escape from the frustration and disappointment of the political problems in China. They used plants as symbols. Bamboo was used in every traditional Chinese garden. This is because bamboo represents a strong but resilient character.

Often pine is used to represent longevity, persistence, tenacity and dignity. The lotus is used to symbolize purity. The flowering plum is one of the most important aspects of a Chinese garden, as it represents renewal and strength of will. Flowering peaches are grown for spring color, and sweet olive as well. The chrysanthemum  is use to symbolize splendor, luster and “the courage to make sacrifices for a natural life”. Peonies symbolize wealth and banana trees are used simply for the sound they make in the breeze.

Design

To be considered authentic, a garden must be built and planned around seventeen essential elements:

1. proximity to the home

2. small

3. walled

4. small individual sections

5. asymmetrical

6. various types of spatial connections

7. architecture

8. rocks

9. water

10. trees

11. plants

12. sculpture

13. jie jing (borrowed scenery)

14. chimes

15. incense burners

16. inscriptions

17. use of feng shui for choosing site.

Rock

Decorative rocks, sometimes termed Chinese scholar’s rocks, are used both for structural and sculptural purposes. The sculptural Taihu rock is especially prized because it represents wisdom and immortality, and is only procurable from Tai Lake, just west of Suzhou.

During the Song dynasty, they were the most expensive objects in the empire. Such rocks, combined with streams and pools, form the basis of a garden’s plan. The Chinese word for landscape, shan shui, literally means “mountains and waters” while a common phrase for making a garden means “digging ponds and piling mountains”.

Water
Water is an important element in Shanghai’s Yuyuan Gardens.
The classic curved bridge is used in many Asian gardens.

Chinese gardens usually feature a central pond and several off shooting streams. The softness of water offsets the solidity of the rocks, while also acting to reflect the constantly changing sky above. Goldfish, carp, and mandarin ducks are three of the most commonly raised fauna. The goal of the design is to make the scenery beautiful, the surrounding is quiet and cool, and the landscape wonderful. Temples, resthouses and short bridges are common features. Also, small fountains were a favourite.

Architecture
The architecture of a garden consists of pavilions for various purposes, walkways, and outer and inner walls. The walls will have moon-shaped doorways and small windows in the shapes of vases and apples.

Pavement

The pavement of a Chinese Scholar’s Garden might include intricate natural patterns or simply dirt depending on the wealth and mission of the owner.

Decoration

Decoration consists of calligraphy carved into rocks or walls, and lattice windows. Some windows have the shape of different objects such as apples, pears, circles, pentagons etc.

Plants

Many garden plants have essential symbolism. Pine trees represent wisdom and bamboo represents strength and upright morality. Plum trees are also extremely valuable to the Chinese for their beautiful pink and white blooms during winter. Chrysanthemums were also extremely well-loved because of their autumn bloom (when most plants wither and die) and symbolize the perfect Confucian scholar. Peonies symbolize wealth and power, and the lotus symbolizes purity (and is also a revered Buddhist plant). Climbing roses, camellias, ginkgos, magnolias, jasmine, willows, sweet osmanthus, and maples were also planted.

The variety of sensory features enhance a garden’s appeal. Windows frame garden views. Trees and flowers provide aroma. Even the intricate designs of pavement and gravel offer tactile enjoyment. Suzhou (pronounced Sue-Joe), in eastern China is widely known for its numerous classical private scholar gardens .

Blossom

The plum blossom is one of the “Four Junzi Flowers” (四君子) in China (the others being orchid, chrysanthemum, and bamboo) and symbolized nobleness.

The Chinese see the blossoms as more of a symbol for winter rather than a harbinger of spring. It is precisely for this reason that the blossoms are so beloved, because they bloom most vibrantly amidst the winter snow while all other flowers have long since succumbed to the cold and died. Thus, they are seen as an example of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity, and thus has also been used as a metaphor to symbolize revolutionary struggle. Because they blossom in winter, the plum, the pine, and the bamboo together have been called the “Three Friends of the Cold” (岁寒三友).

The classical gardens of Suzhou

Marco Polo visited “Su-chau” and remarked on the large size of the city, its prosperity, the silk trade and its “6,000 stone bridges”. He said that the name of the city meant “Earth”, and that there was another nearby city designated as “Heaven”. Other early sources referred to Suzhou as “Earthly Paradise”.


Gardening in Suzhou reached its height during the Ming and Qing dynasties. There were over 280 private gardens then in Suzhou and landscaping became an art with established masters. The mild climate, along with 230 frost-free days and around 43 inches (1,100 mm) of rain annually the area is perfect for gardening endeavors. Sixty-nine gardens in and around Suzhou are preserved as important national cultural heritage sites.






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