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The Humble Administrator's Garden

The Humble Administrator's Garden

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The Humble Administrator's Garden (or Zhuozheng Yuan) is one of four great Chinese gardens. At 51,950 square meters it is the largest garden in Suzhou and generally considered the finest garden in southern China. In 1997, Zhuozheng Yuan, along with other classical gardens of Suzhou was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

History of the Humble Administrator's Garden

The garden's site was initially the residence and garden of Lu Guimeng, a Tang Dynasty scholar. Later in the Yuan Dynasty it became monastery garden for the Dahong Temple. In 1513 CE, Wang Xiancheng an Imperial Envoy and poet of the Ming Dynasty appropriated the temple. In 1510, he retired to his native home of Suzhou after a long persecution by the East Imperial Secret Service, and began work on the garden.

The Humble Administrator's Garden in Winter

The Humble Administrator's Garden

This garden, meant to express his fine taste, was designed in collaboration with the renowned artist, Suzhou native, and friend, Wen Zhengming. It was as large as today's garden, with numerous trees and pavilions. The garden was named after a verse by Pan Yue's Idler's Prose, "I enjoy a carefree life by planting trees and building my own house...I irrigate my garden and grow vegetables for me to eat...such a life suits a retired official like me well." This verse symbolized Wang's desire to retire from politics and adopt a hermits life in the manner of Tao Yuanming. It took 16 years until 1526 CE to complete. Wen Zhenming wrote an essay Notes of Wang's Humble Administrator's Garden, and painted Landscapes of the Humble Administrator's Garden in 1533 CE to commemorate the garden.

Wang's son lost the garden to pay gambling debts, and it has changed hands many times since. In 1631 CE The eastern garden was divided from the rest and purchased by Wang Xinyi, Vice Minister of the Justice Board. He added many modifications over the next four years, finishing work in 1635 CE. After completion it was renamed Dwelling Upon Return to the Countryside . The central garden was purchased by Jiang Qi Governor of Jiangsu in 1738 CE.[3] After extensive renovations he renamed it Garden Rebuilt. Also in 1738 CE the Western Garden was purchased by Ye Shikuan Chief Histographer, and renamed The Garden of Books. The Garden of Books was purchased by a Suzhou merchant, Zhang Luqian, in 1877 CE and renamed The Subsidiary Garden. In 1949 all three parts of the garden were rejoined and restored in 1952. In 1997 the garden was given UNESCO world heritage status.

Cao Xueqin lived at the garden during his teenage years. It is believed much of the garden in his novel Dream of the Red Chamber was inspired by the scenery of the Humble Administrators Garden. In particular the grotto at the entrance.

Design of the Humble Administrator's Garden

Today's garden is only very loosely related to its earliest version, but closely resembles its late Qing appearance, with numerous pavilions and bridges set among a maze of connected pools and islands. It consists of three major parts set about a large lake: the central part (Zhuozheng Yuan), the eastern part (once called Guitianyuanju, Dwelling Upon Return to the Countryside), and a western part (the Supplementary Garden). The house lies in the south of the garden. In total, the garden contains 48 different buildings with 101 tablets, 40 stelae, 21 precious old trees, and over 700 Suzhou-style penjing/penzai.Eastern Garden Composed of a few buildings around a central great lawn and pond combination. The lawn is ringed by a grove of crape myrtle trees which is an allusion to the Tang Dynasty State Secretariat which was nicknamed the Crape Myrtle Department. Central Garden This section is composed of many scenes arranged around the Surging Wave Pond. Within the pond three islands recreate the scenery of the fariy islands of the east sea.

Address:Ping Jiang District, 178 Dong Bei Street, Suzhou China
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