The Humble(d) Administrator’s Garden: Corruption and silk embroidery

Suzhou: The Humble Administrator’s Garden

Or Zhou Zheng Yuan

A Tea-house, A Stone Grotto, and a Walkway in the garden

A Tea-house, A Stone Grotto, and a Walkway in the garden

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This garden was begun in 1509 but fell into bad repair during World War Two and was heavily damaged by the troops.

In the 1970s it was rebuilt and is now a world heritage garden classed as being in the top 10 in the world, and in the top 4 within China and listed by UNESCO.

It is built as always with water and pagodas and tea-house, bridges and walkways across the water covering about 52,000 sq. meters (12.85 acres).

It was a scholar garden during the T’ang dynasty initially being the private garden of a former government servant named Wang Xianchen. It was said he intended to build a garden after retired and just do some gardening work like planting trees and vegetables there, which was said to be the life of a humble man by him. Hence is the name of the garden. However, it is also known as the ‘Garden of the Unsuccessful Politician’ as the administrator became humble after being accused of corruption.

Scenes from the Garden, Bonsais, trees, Ye Olde Thatched Hut and so on

Scenes from the Garden, Bonsais, trees, Ye Olde Thatched Hut and so on

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The garden was created upon the old relics of a resident and a temple.

and a monastery garden during the Yuan dynasty. It then changed hands many times. The structures are grouped round a labyrinthine lake, rather like a Chinese water village. The Hall of Distant Fragrance is on the south shore of the lake and looks to an island with the Pavilion of Fragrant Snow.

Every spring and summer, the garden hosts the Azalea Festival and the Lotus Festival. There are bonsai shows in the Bonsai Garden (Penjing Yuan) in the Western Section while precious Chinese stones are shown in the Elegant Stone House (Yashi Zhai) in the Central Section.

Silk Embroidery

Silk Embroidery

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The town of Suzhou which is by the garden is known as the Venice of China.  Suzhou is located in the center of the Yangtze Delta, in the south of Jiangsu Province, with Shanghai to the east and the Yangtze River to the north. Since 42% area of the city is covered by water, it is built alongside many canals which are linked by bridges rather like Venetian bridges.

It was first built in 514 BC, and is known as the cradle of Wu Culture, with many great names and schools of art. For example, the Wumen Fine Arts School is the finest in the city’s history, represented by Shen Zhou, Wen Zhengming, Tang Yin and Qiu Ying, whose poems, calligraphy and paintings are considered to be historical artifacts. Pingtan, Kun Opera and Suzhou Opera are praised as ‘three flowers’ in the cultural history of the city. The silk embroidery, fans and brocade produced in

Suzhou are noted world wide.

Each walkway had many small shops and little stalls selling items rather like Ibiza did in the 1980s and there were many deja vu type feelings of the hippie markets that existed there.

The walkways were absolutely heaving especially at night – again reminiscent of Ibiza with little bars and coffee shops and trinket stalls but mostly those wandering were young and we were rather conspicuous as being both European and older – and not looking as old as their 60+ do!

The Town of Suzhou, lit up at night

The Town of Suzhou, lit up at night


One thing you do need to watch out for here are the electric scooters – almost completely noiseless and they don’t keep to the road. No bikes, scooter, motorbikes or even three-wheeled cabs stick to the roads – they all use the pavements. We understand that it is illegal but no-one seems to care. But then also, most people don’t have licences to drive officially, and even if they do, the licence may have been acquired through knowing the right person rather than passing a test!

So Suzhou town is a tourist trap but a very pretty one at that…


One thought on “The Humble(d) Administrator’s Garden: Corruption and silk embroidery

  1. Pingback: Scrolls and Mountains: Sublime Art and Politics | tiggerrenewing

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