Suzhou was a great little getaway for us. We only had time for one garden so we chose to go to The Humble Administrator’s Garden. It is the largest garden in south-west China and holds a rating of AAAAA, which is the highest rating for a tourist attraction.
I’m a huge travel nerd and love to learn things about the places I visit. Go grab your cup of tea and let me share what I’ve learned while I was in Suzhou. Perhaps you already knew these things but I really didn’t know much about traditional Chinese gardens. It was fun to learn and see at the same time!
These entrances are called “Moon Gates” and are very common in traditional Chinese gardens. The view is supposed to look like a picture or painting. When I was taking the picture, all I could think about were the moving paintings in Harry Potter. This is a real life moving painting! The Moon Gates come in different shapes and this is just one of many. Absolutely stunning.
Penjing is the art of creating miniature landscape in a container. Rocks, plants and mini trees portray a center of natural beauty as thought it were a landscape painting. It dates back to the Tang dynasty! And here I thought it was only a Japanese thing. The garden was filled with beautiful Penjing.
This bridge was built so it feels like you’re walking on waves. Don’t let the picture fool you, yes I am not the greatest at taking pictures but the bridge was going up and down! I imagine this is what it would feel like if I could walk on water waves. Without the water in my face, of course.
This is the Secluded Pavillion of Firmiana Simplex and Bamboo. The most favored and famous view of the garden which has a borrowed view of Beisi Pagoda from the water. Stand at the moon gate and face the water.
Here is the Beisi Pagoda, which is a few miles away from the garden. We wanted to go in but sadly it was closed so we couldn’t go in. But I did manage to take this picture and the picture doesn’t really do justice. It’s absolutely unreal in person.
Water is an essential element of life and is often used in Chinese gardens as a mirror to make the garden appear larger. Home to the goldfish which symbolizes good fortune. The reflection in the water looks like the watercolor paintings I see of Chinese or Asian scenery. My grandmother specialized in painting scenery and animals with watercolors while she was in Japan. She even painted when I was a child, I remember see all her paintings hanging up in her home and I wish I had them now.
Each plant, flower and tree in a traditional Chinese garden has a symbolic meaning. These plants also change with the season and represents nature. They add contrast to the rocks, the straight lines from gates, pavilions and walkways.
The peach tree in the Chinese garden symbolized longevity and immortality. The apricot tree symbolized the way of the government official. The orchid, peony and lotus were the most favored flowers in a Chinese garden. The peony symbolized wealth, orchid symbolizes nobility and the lotus symbolizes purity. I have always loved the lotus flower, I even contemplated getting a tattoo of one. For me the lotus represents my life. The lotus seed grows in murky, muddy waters. It grows to the top of the water a beautiful flower but has difficulties getting there because of the conditions of the water. My life has always felt like an uphill battle but now it’s incredibly wonderful. I feel just like the lotus seed, having to go through the muddy parts of my life but my life has now blossomed into something beautiful, just like the lotus flower. A lot of the reason why my life has become so wonderful is because of my husband. I might get that lotus tattoo one day, just have to figure out where and what kind of tattoo.
This zig zag bridge is the absolute center of the garden. The zigzag is common in most bridges, the Chinese believe that ghosts can only travel in a straight line. So having a zigzag bridge eliminates ghosts from crossing.
The center of the garden imitates the scenery of China, south of the lower Yangzi.
I took so many more pictures of the garden but these are the highlights. If you follow me on instagram (anniegurumi), you’ll probably see more pictures!
I am not an expert or anything on China or Chinese culture. But I have been learning a lot since we moved here and I’m loving it. I think it’s amazing how different each culture is, how each has its own traditions and it’s fun to learn about these things. I want my future children to respect different cultures as well as learn about them because the more we know, the more we appreciate.
Did you know any of these things about traditional Chinese gardens? Do you know other facts? Please share.