The Master-of-Nets Garden features a long covered walkway and the Pavilion Where the Moon Meets the Breeze.
In ancient times, Suzhou, in present-day Jiangsu province, was praised as "Heaven on Earth." Still ranking high among the heavenly delights of the 4,000-year-old city are its famous gardens. These attractions, many of which once belonged to retired officials or wealthy merchants, have survived centuries, with new features bringing renewed vitality.The Humble Administrator's Garden and the Lion Forest Garden
Created in 1509, the Humble Administrator's Garden is considered the pinnacle of Suzhou gardens. Centering upon the broad expanse of a lake, the picturesque garden landscapes and waterscapes are kept the style of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1997.
The original owner of the garden was Wang Xianchen, a legal official with the central government. Historically, officials and writers revered the lotus as the exquisite flower emerges from foul pond mud. Lotuses are one of the big features of the garden.
Many new varieties have been added in recent years and there are now more than 200 types of lotuses in the garden, which hosts in summer a lotus festival.
This features many rare and unusual varieties, such as a mini water lily, with blooms the size of a table tennis ball.
The lotuses are in full bloom in late July. The best spot for viewing them is in front of the Hall of Distant Fragrance, at the center of the garden.
This was the reception hall of the garden, as the former owners believed from there they could survey the best scenery.
Other spots, such as the Waterside Lotus Pavilion, are also ideal for watching lotus.
The Lion Forest Garden is within walking distance of the Humble Administrator's Garden. Created in the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), the biggest feature of the garden is the rockeries.
It was created by a Buddhist monk, and as the lion is one of the holy creatures in Buddhism, the monk built rockeries featuring hundreds of natural stones said to resemble lions, though they have weathered over the years.
Inside the rockeries are passageways, creating a huge labyrinth, in which visitors can hear someone close by, but not find them. When Emperor Qianlong of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) visited the garden, he spent four hours exploring.
On emerging, he wrote "real delight" in calligraphy to describe the rockeries. The work was made into a inscription, hanging in a pavilion next to the rockeries.
The Humble Administrator's Garden
Admission: 70 yuan/US$11.4 (April 16-October 30); 50 yuan (October 31-April 15)
Address: 178 Dongbei St
How to get there: Tour Bus No. 1, 2 or 5