Since the early Song dynasty, gardens have been created in Suzhou and they were mainly designed to suit personal tastes of the official or rich merchant who had them built. At the height of Suzhou’s prosperity in the sixteenth century, the carefully designed gardens numbered well over 100. A handful has been restored and is now open to the public.
The most popular ones are the Humble Administrator’s Garden, the Blue Wave Pavilion, the Lion Grove and the Garden of the Master of the Nets.
Dating from the early 1500’s, the five hectare Humble Administrator’s Garden is the largest of Suzhou’s gardens and is based on water with three interlinked sections. The first section consists of pavilions with a lotus pond, the middle section is mainly water with two small islands connected by bridges and the final section opens into a wide space.
The Blue Wave Pavilion is one of the oldest gardens in Suzhou with meandering creeks and trees. The buildings were originally built in the eleventh century but have been restored since.
The Lion Grove, a stone’s throw from the Humble Administrator’s Garden, was created by a monk in 1350.
And the Master of the Nets Garden, also known as the Wangshi Yuan, on Shiquan Jie, was first started in 1140 and left unfinished until 1770 when it was restored and finished. This garden is the smallest in Suzhou and so named because a retired official who commissioned the garden wanted to become a fisherman.