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Suzhou Garden of Cultivation


Garden of Cultivation (艺圃) or Yipu Garden located nearby Jinmen Gate of northwest Suzhou is a private classical garden built in the reign of Jiajing Emperor of Ming Dynasty (1522-1566). It is a famous private garden in Suzhou as well. It is a site under the municipal protection and written into the list of the sixth batch of national key cultural sites as a symbolic garden building of Ming Dynasty, and it is also widely accepted worldwide since successfully inscribed into the list of World Cultural Heritage Sites of UNESCO.

The View of Garden of Cultivation in Suzhou

Originally, the Garden of Cultivation was built by Yuan Zugeng(袁祖庚,1519-1590) of Ming Dynasty, and named Zuiying Hall(醉颖堂). Yuan Zugeng was a native of Suzhou with a courtesy name Shengzhi(绳之). In 1541, he served as the high official in charge of judicatory in Zhejinag province, and retreated at the age of 40. He selected Suzhou as his retreat site, and built private garden named the Mountain Villa of City (城市山林). In 1620, it was purchased by Wen Zhenmeng (文震孟), the grand grandson of Wen Zhengming, and renamed Yaopu (药圃). After Ming Empire collapsed, the private garden was owned by Jiang Cai (姜埰), whose courtesy name was Jingting, and then whole garden was named Jingting Shanfang (敬亭山房, the Mountain Villa of Jingting), and his son named Jiang Shijie(姜实节) changed it as Yipu(艺圃, the Garden of Cultivation). Jiang Cai loyally served Ming Dynasty, and after the Ming perished, he still kept his identity of an official serving the Ming government, and his son also followed his fathers’ will, and rejected to attend the imperial examination of Qing Dynasty all the life.

The garden's arrangement is open and simple; buildings, ponds and mountain trees are laid out from north to south successively. This is the most basic method of arrangement of a Suzhou garden. In the southwestern corner there are some small courtyards comprising secondary views, which offer the visitor very calm and joyful feelings. All structures in the garden are used to create one artistic garden view with hills shrouded in mist, waves reaching far into the distance, and trees growing luxuriantly. There are also springs and deep pools, lofty pavilions and terraces.

The pond in the middle of the garden occupies one fourth of the total area. It features "mountain scenery" to the south and buildings to the north. The pond is in roughly rectangular shape with coves in its southeast and southwest, which are spanned by low, flat and small bridges. On the east and west banks of the pond, there are roofed galleries, pavilions, rocks and trees, serving transitionally as a foil to the northern and southern scenes. Fry Pavilion standing by the pond is a Ming-dynasty structure. A moon gate in the wall that borders the pond and the hills leads to a small courtyard in the southwest. The Water Pavilion of Longevity standing to the north of the pond overlooks the broad expanse of water. It is the biggest waterside pavilion in Suzhou. To the north of the pavilion is the Hall of Erudition and Elegance, also in the Ming architectural style. The Garden of Cultivation has altogether 13 buildings, 17 tablets and couplets, eight steles and stone carvings, in addition to valuable old trees.

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 The Travel Guide of Suzhou

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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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