Suzhou Travel Guide

The Humble administrator Garden


China Tours including trips to The Humble administrator Garden in Suzhou:
China Travel Guide - the Humble Administrator Garden
China Travel Guide - the Humble Administrator Garden

The Humble Administrator's Garden (or Zhuozheng Yuan) is one of four great Chinese gardens. At 51,950 m² it is the largest garden in Suzhou and generally considered the finest garden in southern China.In 1997, Zhuozheng Yuan, along with other classical gardens of Suzhou was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The garden's site was initally the residence and garden of Lu Guimeng, a Tang Dynasty scholar. Later in the Yuan Dynasty it became monastery garden for the Dahong Temple. In 1513 CE, Wang Xiancheng an Imperial Envoy and poet of the Ming Dynasty appropriated the temple. In 1510, he retired to his native home of Suzhou after a long persecution by the East Imperial Secret Service, and began work on the garden.

This garden, meant to express his fine taste, was designed in collaboration with the renowned artist, Suzhou native, and friend, Wen Zhengming. It was as large as today's garden, with numerous trees and pavilions. The garden was named after a verse by Pan Yue's Idler's Prose, "I enjoy a carefree life by planting trees and building my own house...I irrigate my garden and grow vegtables for me to eat...such a life suits a retired official like me well." This verse symbolized Wang's desire to retire from politics and adopt a hermits life in the manner of Tao Yuanming. It took 16 years until 1526 CE to complete. Wen Zhenming wrote an essay Notes of Wang's Humble Administrator's Garden, and painted Landscapes of the Humble Administrator's Garden in 1533 CE to commemorate the garden.

Wang's son lost the garden to pay gambling debts, and it has changed hands many times since. China Travel Guide - the Humble Administrator GardenIn 1631 CE The eastern garden was divided from the rest and purchased by Wang Xinyi, Vice Minister of the Justice Board. He added many modifications over the next four years, finishing work in 1635 CE. After completion it was renamed Dwelling Upon Return to the Countryside. The central garden was purchased by Jiang Qi Governor of Jiangsu in 1738 CE. After extensive renovations he renamed it Garden Rebuilt. Also in 1738 CE the Western Garden was purchased by Ye Shikuan Chief Histographer, and renamed The Garden of Books. The Garden of Books was purchased by a Suzhou merchant, Zhang Lüqian, in 1877 CE and renamed The Subsidiary Garden. In 1949 all three parts of the garden were rejoined and restored in 1952. In 1997 the garden was given UNESCO world heritage status.

Cao Xueqin lived at the garden during his teenage years. It is believed much of the garden in his novel Dream of the Red Chamber was inspired by the scenery of the Humble Administrators Garden. In particular the grotto at the entrance.


Today's garden is only very loosely related to its earliest version, but closely resembles its late Qing appearance, with numerous pavilions and bridges set among a maze of connected pools and islands. It consists of three major parts set about a large lake: the central part (Zhuozheng Yuan), the eastern part (once called Guitianyuanju, Dwelling Upon Return to the Countryside), and a western part (the Supplementary Garden). The house lies in the south of the garden. In total, the garden contains 48 different buildings with 101 tablets, 40 stelae, 21 precious old trees, and over 700 Suzhou-style penjing/penzai.

Eastern Garden

Composed of a few buildings around a central great lawn and pond combination. The lawn is ringed by a grove of crape myrtle trees which is an allusion to the Tang Dynasty State Secretariat which was nicknamed the Crape Myrtle Department.

  • All Blue Pavilion A terrace with two wings built over a pond. it is named for a verse by Chu Guangxi, "Waterweeds in the pond look dark green". Also called the Angling Terrace.
  • Celestial Spring Tower An octagonal tower with flying eves, built around a preexisting well called the celestial spring.
  • Fragrant Sorghum Hall A five bay hall open on four sides with hipped-gable roofline. The name comes from sorghum fields that once existed near the garden. The windows are decorated with boxwood carvings of scenes from Romance of the Western Chamber.
  • Looking Far Away Pavilion A square pavilion open on two sides.
  • Orchid and Snow Hall A three bay hall internally divided by a laquer screen engraved with a map of the garden. Orchid and snow are symbolic of ritual purity.
  • Pavilion of the Leaning against Rainbow
  • Pavilion of Lotus A terrace open on two sides with a hipped gable roofline and a portico on all four sides. It overlooks a lotus pond and was named for the verse by Yang Wangli, "To the horizon green lotus leaves seem to extend infinitely; under the sun reddish lotus flowers go bright scarlet." A scholar stone is mounted in the middle.

Central Garden

This section is composed of many scenes arranged around the Surging Wave Pond. Within the pond three islands recreate the scenery of the fariy islands of the east sea.

  • Bamboo Hall Also called the Southern Hall, it is a three bay hall with a portico on four sides. The roofline is hipped-gable with flying eves. The hall is named after a nearby bamboo grove.
  • Distant Fragrance Hall The main hall of the central garden, it is three bays wide and open on four sides. It has with a hipped-gable roofline with flying eves, and a portico on all four sides. It was rebuilt during the Qing Dynasty, on the site of Wang Xiancheng's Country Hall House. The hall is sited to capture the scent of Lotus blossoms on Surging Wave Pond, as well as frame views of the islands. The hall is named after a verse by the Neo-confucianist poet Zhou Dunyi, " Though growing out of the filthy mub, she reamains unstained. Though bathed in clear water, she bears no sign of seduction." This verse describing the lotus flower, also alludes to noble charecter, thus lotus fragrance coming off the Surging Wave Pond is ideologically tied to Neo-confucianism.
  • Firmiana Simplex and Bamboo Pavilion
  • Flying Rainbow Bridge
  • Fragrant Isle A landboat structure, named for the smell of the lotus blossoms in Surging Wave Pond
  • Green Ripple Pavilion
  • Hall of Elegance
  • Hall of Rocks*
  • Listening to the Sound of Rain Hall
  • Little Surging Wave Hall
  • Little Surging Wave Pavilion
  • Loquat Pavilion

Lotus Breeze Pavilion A hexagonal pavilion with flying eves, sited in the middle of the pond. It is named for a verse by Li Hongyi, "Green willow foilage connects twin bridges; gentle breeze sends in lotus scent from around".

  • Magnolia Hall Also called Blooming Brush Hall, a three bay hall. It is named for the magnolia trees in the antecourt. It functioned as Wen Zhengming's studio.
  • Malus spectabilis Hall
  • Moon Gate
  • Mountain in View Tower Named for a verse by Tao Yuaning, "As I pick chysanthumums on the eastern fence, my eyes fall leisurely on the southern mountain".
  • Orange Pavilion
  • Pavilion of Fragrant Snow and Azure Cloud Also called Snow Like Fragrant Prunus mume Pavilion, it is a square pavilion open on three sides.
  • Peony suffruiticosa Pavilion Also called the Embroidered Silk Pavilion, it is a square pavilion open on three sides.
  • Think Deep Aim High Hall
  • Think Deep Aim High Pavilion
  • True Nature Pavilion

Western Garden

  • "With Whom Shall I Sit?" Pavilion
  • Floating Green Tower
  • Hall of 36 Mandrian Ducks and 18 Camellias
  • Keep and Listen Hall
  • Good for Both Families Pavilion
  • Pagoda Reflection Pavilion
  • Tower of Reflection
  • Small Canglang Pavilion
  • Small Canglang Hall
  • The Inducalamus Pavilion

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