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Garden of the Master of Nets

Suzhou, China

During the 11th century, a bureaucrat laid the foundation for what would one day be regarded among the acclaimed gardens of Suzhou. However, the garden didn’t get its distinctive name until 1785, when another owner who preferred the life of a simple fisherman to being a government official, named it Wangshi Yuan or ‘The Master of the Nets Garden’. It is now counted among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites category for classical gardens in Suzhou and a chef-d'oeuvre of landscaping.

The garden is in the southeast of Suzhou and can be reached by taking any public bus to the eponymous main or Wangshi Yuan North Station. Dedicated tourist shuttle 2 is also available to this destination. The admission fare is RMB40 from April-October excluding June and RMB30 from November-March and June. Kids within the height range of 3.9 to 4.9 feet get in at 50% off while kids measuring less than 3.9 feet go in free when accompanied by a senior. The garden is open from 07:30 to 17:00 with a night garden tour (19:30 to 22:00) available from April-October, priced at RMB100. The night tour cost includes dance and song events. It is a small garden at 1.5 acres, but it is recommended that you take your time appreciating the use made of relative dimension to create an impression of a peaceful garden that is larger than it really is.

Within the Master of Nets Garden, there are two sections; one is the living quarters and the other is the scenic garden. The residential area has some well-maintained relics of its own such as the finely carved entrance door, which in accordance to construction rules of the Song era, would also convey the rank of the official. The house is laid out in a north-south axis, typical in China, and all halls within have access to the main garden and peaceful views. The garden is the centerpiece of the entire compound.

Strolling through the garden, you will find it is not over-run by greenery with plants sprouting at every nook ad cranny. Rather the arrangement is in a way so that each area represents a scene that can be appreciated on its own merits rather than in conjunction with the whole. The different scenes blend with each other seamlessly though without creating a disruption. Emphasis was also on giving the illusion of a grander scale by arranging the rocks and plant in small formations and manipulating perspective of the viewer.

As in all Chinese gardens, there is a pond accompanied by rockeries, plants, bridges and pavilions. Some noteworthy constructions are: Music Pavilion, with a pomegranate tree as the dominating aspect, Barrier of Clouds, in which a rock wall shields the courtyard into seclusion and the Pavilion of the Moon and Wind, the main attraction that all visitors flock to with splendid sight of the main pond, the surrounding trees and décor.

The nighttime scenery is simply magical when lighted up with lanterns and the performances are the cherry on top.

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