Posted by: travelrat | May 9, 2017

Travel Theme: Garden

‘My ambition as a gardener is to water my orange trees with gin, then all I have to do is squeeze the juice into a glass’ (W.C. Fields)

Garden 1

The many gardens in Suzhou, a city to the north of Shanghai, together constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We visited two of them; first was the ‘Master of the Nets’ garden. The ‘Master of the Nets’, I guessed, was probably a fisheries minister of some kind. So, I did a little more research, and discovered that they were first laid out in the 12th Century, as the garden of the residence of a Government official. It is said to have gained its name in the 18th Century, when the house and gardens were owned by retired Government official Song Zong Yuan.

He is said to have been so frustrated with official bureaucracy that he once said that he would prefer the simple, uncomplicated life of a fisherman.

Garden 2

It’s not known whether or not he actually achieved this ambition … indeed, the whole tale is apocryphal … but the nickname of the official, and the gardens, stuck.

This visit was followed in quick succession by the ‘Humble Administrator’s Garden. Possibly, though, the Humble Administrator wasn’t as humble as all that; he certainly outranked a Master of the Nets, for his garden is much bigger.

Garden 3

The Humble Administrator’s Garden is thought by many (by ‘Lonely Planet’, anyway!) to be second only to the Master of the Nets Garden. The ‘Humble Administrator’ was one Wang Xian Cheng, who, in 1510, retired from a life as a politician, in which he’d held many posts, as Imperial Inspector and magistrate,  to establish his garden in the grounds of a ruined temple, and just potter around in it .. or, as he said ‘ …to cultivate my garden and sell my vegetable crop is the policy of a humble man’ 

Garden 4

The garden was portrayed in a series of paintings by Wang’s friend, Wen Zhen Ming … and, over five hundred years later, in a series of photographs by me!

They’re popular with both local people and tourists but, like the Summer Palace gardens in Beijing and the Snow Goose Pagoda gardens in Xi’an, it sort of absorbed then all.

Both gardens, with their lotus ponds, bridges and buildings are strongly reminiscent of the Willow Pattern … which I hesitate to mention, because that pattern, and the story behind it, originated in the potteries of Staffordshire … and is about as Chinese as I am!

Garden 5

This week’s contribution to the Travel Theme. I was hard put to make the selection from the many gardens I’ve visited around the world … but you’ll read about some of them at https://wheresmybackpack.com/2017/05/07/travel-theme-garden/

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