Thursday, July 31, 2014

CLASSICAL GARDENS OF SUZHOU

The Humble Administrator's Garden
Pavilions and pagodas surrounded by landscapes mimicking natural scenery of rocks, hills and rivers lingered on my senses of what an authentic chinese garden is.  And indeed, this recent visit to Suzhou, China proved that there is no element of surprise on what to expect of a Chinese garden.  The photos will speak for itself.

I was initially led to Suzhou, China for the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and for no other reason --- and these are the gardens that spanned a period of almost one thousand years (11th to 19th century).


It was a bit unfortunate that even local residents of the City of Suzhou are unaware of the existence of classical gardens in their hometown.  While checking-in at my booked hotel in Suzhou, I immediately asked the receptionist and other staff of where the gardens are situated.  I have to show them my phone where screenshot images of the classical gardens are stored with chinese characters in it but to no avail.  And so I decided to go out of the streets and try my luck with the taxi drivers, peddlers and the passers-by.

Master of the Nets Garden:  The Night Performance
 (simplified Chinese网师园traditional Chinese網師園pinyinWǎngshī Yuán


Master of the Nets Garden at night
I arrived at around six in the evening at the vicinity where the Master of the Nets Garden is situated.  I looked at the saved screenshot profile of the garden stored on my mobile phone for more than five times to be certain that there is indeed a night performance.  I see no signs of visitors and that the ticketing office was closed.  I stroll around until I felt the urge to eat.  I stayed at the corner of the street leading to the entrance of the garden so I can monitor any signs of a night show.

where I stayed for an hour before the show
Around 7 in the evening, tourists began to enter the alley leading to the gardens.  And so I have to place my order at a stall selling hotdogs, chicken, grilled meat, chicken skin and the likes.  I ordered chicken skin and juice for my dinner.  Then, I hurried to the entrance of the garden, being informed that I was the last guest and so I have to catch up.

The show started with introductions (in Mandarin) as I arrived at the hall with other tourists.  As soon as I finished eating, holding a plastic bag ready for disposal, I asked the chinese lady beside me who appears to be an usherette to have my plastic bag disposed as there was no trashcan visible.  She panicked for awhile but obliged to get the plastic bag. I smiled then looked for a better vantage point to take pictures.  In a matter of seconds, the lady whom I requested to throw my trash appeared on the stage, smiled and relayed the story in english. She must have been memorizing her lines when I asked her to throw my trash. My apologies.



The night performance at this UNESCO World Heritage Site costs 100 Yuan for each visitor and involves a transfer from one pavilion to another, surrounding the pond, where a showcase of Chinese talents are portrayed making each pavilion as the center stage.



Though I honestly cannot decipher the songs and dramas portrayed even with an English translation, I still admire the preserved culture of the Chinese civilization.  Notable performance is the Romeo and Juliet drama of a Chinese version as told by the narrator.  Notable equates unforgettable in my vocabulary this time. Why?  After the performance, everyone asked where is Romeo? That was the only drama at least most of the audience can relate to. But only two lovely ladies were dancing and singing.  That's it.

too flexible!
Romeo and Juliet (Chinese version) as told  by the narrator
Music is indeed a universal language. While lyrics cannot be understood by all, the melody and rhythm produced by various musical instruments of Chinese origin is already worth the admission fees for the night performance at Master of the Nets Garden.



Location:  Gusu District (formerly Canglang District), Dai Cheng Qiao Road, No. 11 Kuo Jia Tou Xiang (沧浪区带城桥路阔家头巷11号)

Humble Administrator's Garden
(simplified Chinese拙政园traditional Chinese拙政園pinyinZhuōzhèng Yuán)

I was sweating profusely as we queued for the admission fees towards another UNESCO World Heritage Site of Suzhou.  I was joined by a friend who knows how to speak Mandarin in this visit and who studies in Suzhou for language enhancement.

The scorching heat of the sun made its presence felt so bad which made me purchase a new souvenir shirt to change for comfort.


The admission fees have increased abruptly according to my friend.  It now costs 90 Yuan for regular and 45 Yuan for students (which my friend availed) which was half the price last summer.



The garden contains numerous pavilions and bridges set among a maze of connected pools and islands.  The Humble Administrator's Garden is the largest garden in Suzhou and one of the finest in Southern China.  Set up like a maze, we had a hard time locating the exit but what is important is we were able to pull through.



Location: n°178 Dongbei Street (东北街178号)

These are just two of the classical gardens of Suzhou which I have visited due to time constraints.  Being one of the important historical sites of China in terms of world heritage, I can say Mission was accomplished.

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