Suzhou: A city of gardens

By Yang Feiyue ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-10-24 08:35:33

Suzhou: A city of gardens

Tourists in the Pingjiang road area. [Photos By Yang Feiyue/China Daily]

Early morning experience

The Zhuozheng Garden, also known as the Humble Administrator's Garden, now offers just 16 visitors the early morning experience between 6:30 and 7:30 am before it opens to the general public.

The garden, which is on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list, is one of the four most famous parks in China and is on a par with the local Lingering Garden, the Summer Palace in Beijing, and the Chengde Imperial Summer Resort in Hebei province.

Xia Wenting, deputy head of management and marketing department of Zhuozheng Garden says: "We launched the custom-made tour last April.

"Visitors can tour the garden during the two-hour period, so they can experience it like the owner would."

Watching the water mist wafting from the garden's lakes, breathing the early morning fresh air, listening to birds chirping and enjoying the manual tricycle service and a distinctive Suzhou-styled breakfast are among the perks of the tour.

Roughly 800 visitors have signed up for the special tour since it was launched, and most of them came during weekends, says Xia.

"Many of them (the visitors) are amateur photographers, high-end tourists with a strong interest in culture, or businessmen treating guests."

The garden covers an area of roughly 5.2 hectares and is the biggest classic garden in Suzhou.

Chu Jiaxi, a guide says: "It (the Zhuozheng garden) features a lake and three islands."

The eastern part of the garden features idyllic scenery, the central part is filled with many elements from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), while the western part reflects things in the late Qing Dynasty, says Chu.

Visitors can appreciate peony in spring, autumn scenery featuring withered water lily in October and yellow maple and ginkgo leaves after November.

The garden was covered in green during our visit in early October. Long-stemmed water lily leaves stick out from the lake, and grey-tiled pavilions and corridors are hidden in the thick woods.

Those who long for a night view of the classic garden can opt for Wangshi Garden, also known as the Master-of-Nets Garden.

Roughly one-tenth the size of the Humble Administrator's Garden, Wangshi provides an iridescent forest experience at night while ensuring visitors don't get lost.

The tour runs from April to the end of October, because it's too cold to get out at night in the other months.

Xu Ying, deputy head of the management committee of Wangshi says: "We've had the night tour running for the public for almost 26 years.

"It's a different world at night and visitors can feel things they can't feel in the day."

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