Thursday, May 31, 2018

Exploring picturesque Suzhou, China

The first time we saw a Chinese garden courtyard that was modeled after a garden in Suzhou was at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. We had wandered into the Asian wing, and instantly fell in love with the tranquility and charm of the garden courtyard. It was a nice change of pace after battling with the crowd at the museum's extensive Egyptian collection.
Chinese garden courtyard at The Met in New York City
Last month we got a tour of a real garden in Suzhou. We were in China, and Suzhou was one of the cities we visited. The 425-year-old Lingering Garden (留園)was saved from the wrecking ball in the 1930s, and thanks to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, it has been very well maintained . At one point in time, it belonged to a family with the last name of Liu (留), which means to stay and linger, hence the name Lingering Garden. Liu's Garden would have been more appropriate, don't you think?

We learned that there are 4 elements to a classic Chinese garden: water, rocks, plants and architecture, all harmoniously blended to create a flowing energy. It was a sanctuary for emperors, government officials, scholars and poets, who came to find respite, reflection and inspiration.
Lingering Garden, Suzhou

As Suzhou was touted the Venice of China, thereby raising our expectations, we were a tad disappointed to see canals lined with dilapidated homes. Occasionally, we would see people washing their laundry along the river banks.
doing laundry on the river

Every now and then, a beautiful bridge would emerge as our boat cruised along the canals.
a nice reflection of an exquisite bridge
We saw restaurants adorned with lanterns, and wished our boat would stop so we could get a close up experience. Alas, the short boat ride did not allow time for that.
Traffic on the canal
In a way, we're glad Suzhou has not been developed like other Chinese cities. It still has its original character and charm. How long it remains this way is anyone's guess.

Have you been to Suzhou? What was your impression?

This post is shared on Weekend Reflections and Through My Lens.

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