Named after the Ming dynasty prince Zhu Gaoxu, Xuyuan Garden was built in the Presidential Palace in 1368 over 4 acres of land. Along with Zhanyuan Garden, it is considered one of the prime examples of the ingenuity and sophistication of southern style gardens in Nanjing. The atmosphere created is ripe with a combination of floral scents and song of the insects and birds which makes for a very relaxing environment. As it was built for royalty, the brightest minds invested their knowledge to really make it an icon of horticulture and gardening.
From subway line 2/ line 3 get off at Daxinggong station and take the 5th outgoing path to come upon the Presidential Palace. Public buses also carry passengers to this destination. The ticket for the Palace is RMB40 (garden visit included within) and they stop selling an hour before closing time. The place opens at 08:30 and closing time is dependent on peak season (18:00) and off season (17:00). It remains closed on Monday, as do most other attractions in Nanjing (unless a public holiday falls on Monday) and the eve of the Chinese New Year. Try avoiding holidays and weekends when visiting as the place gets very crowded at those times. And milder seasons have more to offer in terms of the greenery and flowers here. Of the three sections of the Palace, the Xuyuan Garden is located in the West section.
As you make your way across the central section of the Palace, you will immediately heave a sigh of relief on spotting the tranquil open space that is the West Garden. Of the 4 acres, about 0.5 acre is immersed in water. The charming pavilions, walkways over water, the artistic rock and plant formations and tiny seating nooks dispersed around the garden add to its charm and one can really spend time just
wandering and feel the stress of a harried life just melting away.
Of the impressionable places in the Garden, perhaps the marble boat or Buji Zhou is the one that attracts the most attention. It is not as old as the garden as it was built in 1746, when the Governor of the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang was residing here. The marble boat gently floats on the water, with stone pathways leading to it from both sides. There are two cabins built in, at the front and back and yellow tiles on the top with the whole boat decked in beautiful designing. It was personally given its name by Emperor Qianlong, which means United. Taiping generals and even Dr Sun Yat-sen, would also hold meetings here.
The lake in the center is closed off with precious Ming dynasty bricks and all architecture is built around it. Of the pavilions, Yuanyang and Wangfei are much acclaimed and, alongside Xijia Lou and Tongyin Guan, are some of the showstoppers of the compact landscape. The Attic of Joy, built in this section, overlooks some of the most breathtaking vista and was named accordingly!