Suzhou A guided tour video
The diplomat and explorer, Marco Polo, dubbed the visually arresting rural city of Suzhou, the “Venice of the East.” It is located approximately 80 kilometres west of Shanghai and was founded in 514 BC. While Suzhou’s long, winding canals are indeed reminiscent of Venice, the city, (nestled in the heart of China,) is not noted for its attractive waterways: unlike the imposing structures one finds in Venice, the houses that line Suzhou’s canals are shabby, suggesting an overall lack of resources and widespread poverty. Standing amidst Suzhou’s humble houses are beautifully crafted architectural reminders of China’s colourful past. Rather than travelling by boat, as in Venice, the residents of Suzhou ride bicycles, a mode of transport that allows them to negotiate narrow, busy streets with ease.
Suzhou is home to one of the most popular gardens in China, the “Garden of Politics for the Simple Man.” Elegantly crafted lakes and smooth edged sanctuaries fill the grounds of this mid-16th century garden which was originally designed according to the elaborate plans of an influential Mandarin The “Garden of Politics for the Simple Man” is composed of three separate sections. The first section is dedicated to visitors while the second and third sections have been cultivated into individual, separate gardens; one large (which is ideal for communal use,) and one that is slightly smaller.
Another garden, lauded in China and located in Suzhou is the relatively smaller “Garden of the Master of the Nets.” This garden and the residence that complements it, was originally conceived and built during the Song Dynasty, which lasted from the middle of the 10th century to the late 13th century. Now considered of great importance to China, this garden was all but abandoned from the 15-16th centuries, though it began to enjoy a new lease of life when the Chinese aristocracy elected to cultivate and care for it in the 1700s. This garden draws its unusual name from one of its later owners, Wangshi Yuan, a politician who famously proclaimed, during a moment of exasperation, that fishing would be an altogether preferable profession. Decorated with standing stones and simple grasses, and shielded by carved walls and wooden doors, the “Garden of the Master of the Nets” provides the ideal environment for tranquil contemplation, cleverly marrying indoor and outdoor space.
Surprisingly, Suzhou is also home to a third garden noted in China for its beauty. The “Garden of Rest” was founded in the 1500s and was originally intended to represent the botanical and cultural split between East and West. The overall design of the “Garden of Rest” changed according to the nature of its owner: in 1876, the garden assumed its present design, with the incorporation of new buildings, a bountiful lake and a number of unique artistic pieces.
Humble though Suzhou is, it is famous for its horticultural triumphs. The classical gardens that line its streets are thought to be amongst the finest in the whole of China.