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Suzhou Retreat & Reflection Garden


Tuisi Garden or Retreat & Reflection Garden (退思园) of Suzhou located in Tongli water town, a quite famous ancient t own in China, in Wujiang district, Suzhou. As a worldwide famous classical garden in China, Tuisiyuan has been written into the list of World Cultural Heritage Site together with other classical gardens of Suzhou at the same time. The objective comment of UNESCO as below:

The View of Suzhou Retreat & Reflection Garden   The Calligraphic Writing

Classical Chinese garden design, which seeks to recreate natural landscapes in miniature, is nowhere better illustrated than in the nine gardens (including Retreat and Reflection Garden) in the historic city of Suzhou. They are generally acknowledged to be masterpieces of the genre. Dating from the 11th-19th century, the gardens reflect the profound metaphysical importance of natural beauty in Chinese culture in their meticulous design. The Committee decided to inscribe this property on the basis of criteria…, considering that the four classical gardens of Suzhou are masterpieces of Chinese landscape garden design in which art, nature, and ideas are integrated perfectly to create ensembles of great beauty and peaceful harmony, and four gardens are integral to the entire historic urban plan. —— (Quotations from UNESCO Official Website)

And the long description that the UNESCO officially gives The Retreat and Reflection Garden hereinafter: The Retreat and Reflection Garden is the work of the famous painter Yuan Long, who built it in 1885-87. The group of buildings is linked with the garden proper located to the east by a boat-shaped guesthouse. Once again, the central feature of the garden is the pool, surrounded by a series of elegant buildings, the most striking of which is the double-tiered Celestial Bridge. The Gathering Beauty Pavilion overlooks the entire garden from the north-west corner.

The Origin of Its Name & the History of the Garden

The Retreat & Reflection Garden is a private classical garden built in Qing Dynasty featuring the typical architectural style of Qing Dynasty. Exactly built in the late period of Qing Dynasty from 1885 to 1887, the first owner was Ren Lansheng (任兰生), whose courtesy name was Wan Xiang (畹香) and the alternative name was Nan Yun (南云). In 1884, he was defamed as a corrupted official feathering his own nest, when he acted as a central official in government. In 1885, he was fired and returned to hometown, and then, he spent several million (an equivalence to the value he offered at the time, though the currency circulated in China was the silver) building his own private garden, and named it Tuisi. His brother named Ren Aisheng(任艾生) explained the meaning and the source of the garden name – it was originated from Zuo Zhuan (左传, Mr Zuo's Spring and Autumn Annals), an ancient classic of Confucianism, and the source was “进思尽忠, 退思补过” (The loyalty considered during being upgraded, while the mistake modification considered during being downgraded). The garden designer was Yuan Long (袁龙), who ingeniously utilized the limited area, and created the private library titled Zuochun Wangyue(坐春望月, view the moon in spring), the room of guqin, the humble house of tuisi, Naohong Yige (闹红一舸, a well-decorated boat cruising in red flowers ) and Mianyun Pavilion (眠云亭, the sleeping cloud pavilion).

Retreat and Retrospect Garden has a total of 24 buildings, 28 tablets and 12 steles. In addition, it has 15 valuable old trees of nine species, including magnolia. It is composed of the living quarters, a courtyard and a garden, all of which are aligned on a west-east axis. The living quarters consist of the inner and outer sections. In the outer section there are three halls. The inner section is made up of two two-storey buildings laid in the shape of "U". The spacious courtyard is the transitional area between the living quarters and the garden. A boat-like pavilion stands near the entrance to greet guests.

The eastern garden is the cream of the property. Small and exquisite houses built by the pond not only provide advantageous positions for admiring the waters, but they themselves form part of the beautiful landscape. The Hall of Retreat and Retrospect, a main structure in the garden, was constructed on the moon-viewing terrace, from where one is able to feast his or her eyes on the surrounding scenes. Each of the buildings in the garden has its meaningful name, such as Lotus Pavilion, Stone Boat, Hardship Terrace, Pavilion of Rain Coolness, and Celestial Bridge, which is in fact a double-gallery rarely seen in areas south of the Yangtze. The southwest part of the garden is occupied by the Osmanthus Fragrance Hall, which has its own enclosed mini-garden. In the northwest corner is the Beauty Gathering Pavilion, which, connected with the Lasting Spring and Moon Viewing Tower in the middle part, offers a wonderful vista.

In 1986, on the Stanton Island, New York City, a private garden was built in accordance with the original version of Retreat and Reflection Garden, and it was named Tuisi Zhuang, or Retreat and Reflection Village. This garden collects the quintessence of the gardens of Qing Dynasty, and is considered to be the masterpiece of classical gardens in Jiangnan region. In 2001, The Retreat and Reflection Garden was taken as the site of world cultural heritage, and in the same years, it was approved as one of the fifth batch of national key cultural sites of China.

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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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