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If you love the Springtime and Summer Season, especially because of the blooming flowers and lush greenery, then you must start planning to visit the famous gardens in China. A visit to these ancient Chinese gardens will help you immerse in the Chinese culture.
Immersing yourself into a new culture is always exciting! You will appreciate the beauty of what Chinese Gardens have to offer – The architecture as you walk through arched walkways, the aroma that drifts through the trees, the gorgeous flowers of all shapes and sizes along with beautiful lakes, music and historical information – All of this and more is just waiting for you to experience it. Here are the top ancient Chinese Garden picks for your convenience and enjoyment:
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1. The Humble Administrator’s Garden, Suzhou
The city of Suzhou, which is located in the Jiangsu Province, is better known as the “city of water and gardens.” Suzhou alone is home to several UNESCO’s World Heritage classical gardens list. The gardens there alone can be traced back to 6 BC and all of them are beautifully maintained in their original magnificence. A must see for your visit is “The Humble Administrator’s Garden.” This garden is not only the largest in Suzhou but it is also considered by many as the finest in all of Southern China.
It definitely lives up to the hype considering that you cannot snap a bad photo! Every picture, from any corner of the Garden will result in a striking photo. This garden is pretty massive and it contains 48 different buildings with 101 tablets, 40 stelae, 21 precious old trees, and over 700 Suzhou-style penjing/penzai! This elegant garden is also open in the evenings from mid-March to November, when they have performances of classical Chinese music around the garden. Spring is definitely one of the most beautiful seasons to visit. The highlight of the garden is its impressive collection of potted bonsai trees. After you leave the garden, a trip to the Suzhou Museum (free of charge) located next door is also worthwhile. You can also shop outside but don’t forget to bargain since it’s expected (never accept the first price offered). Or if you prefer to see another garden, The Lion’s Garden is another beautiful one that’s a only a 5-10 minute walk from the gates. Although the two gardens are totally different in style, there’s much to appreciate.
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2. The Lingering Garden, Suzhou
Another gem and classical garden of the city of Suzhou is “The Lingering Garden” which is a stunning natural landscape and detailed garden. The beauty of it is seeing how there’s a story behind every design, room and part of the garden. It creates harmony, peace and inspiration. The flowers are blooming everywhere, including by the lake. Buildings, trees, and plant life blend harmoniously with their surroundings. In the past, it housed the rich and politically connected people to the emperor of China; as such, the Lingering garden served as an example of social status.
This garden incorporates all aspects of a traditional (and older) Chinese garden: water bodies, a small pond, rock formations, bamboo grove, a bonsai collection, ancient Chinese Architecture, pleasant walking paths (both open and covered) and several secluded spots for tranquility, contemplation and exploring. In addition, there are beautiful performances of traditional Chinese music happening inside a boat, floating on the pond, and at regular intervals. Inside the garden, you will also find a tea house for refreshments.
3. The Shanghai Botanical Garden, Shanghai
The next garden is a short drive (about 1 1/2 hours) from Suzhou. “The Shanghai Botanical Garden,” is the largest municipal botanical garden in the country, open since 1978. This garden is one of the most diverse in China, with a cherry zone area within the rose garden, containing more than 20 species of cherries (the largest number in Shanghai), a traditional herbal medicine garden, with more than 600 species of herbs, and a large greenhouse featuring tropical forests and foliage.
You will find a dozen spacious sections, featuring magnolias, peonies, azaleas, roses, osmanthus, ferns, bamboo, maples, and conifers and more than 5,000 species of plant life in the garden, including 108 rare species (some are close to extinction). Flora cultivated by the garden has won a number of awards in several international flower shows in different parts of the world. One of the highlights is the bonsai garden which ranks among the largest in the world, collecting over 2,000 bonsai featuring Shanghai style.
4. The Summer Palace Gardens, Beijing
In the heart of Beijing, capital of China, you must visit the Summer Palace. There you will experience the best of everything, the beauty of nature and the power of a rich history. As you walk in, the mixture of lakes, gardens and palaces will truly captivate you. Your exploration will feel as if you’ve transported around the many regions of China. This majestic palace garden was built when the fourth emperor of the Jin Dinasty (1153), Wanyan Liang (Prince Hailing) moved the Jin capital to Beijing. This place is so breathtaking – prepare yourself for an unforgettable experience!
This wonder is centered around Longevity Hill (in the front of the “Great Temple of Gratitude and Longevity”) and the Kunming Lake (within this lake there are three smaller islands). Other hightlights are the halls, the Farming and Weaving Picture Scenic Area, the Long Corridor (famous covered walkway with painted decoration) and the Central Axis area. Hint: If you are standing atop the Longevity Hill, the Tower of Buddhist Incense is the highest building in the Summer Palace. Best photo opportunity ever!
Recommendation: When visiting any of these wonderful gardens, I strongly advise that you hire a tour guide. It is the stories and history that adds value and increases your appreciation for what you’re experiencing!
A favorite Chinese proverb states:
“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid of only standing still.”
Listen to your inner travel goddess and immerse yourself in the vibrant and rich culture of China. You won’t regret it!
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Note: I had the opportunity to explore China with The US-China Education Council. All my opinions are my own.