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Lion Forest Garden

Suzhou, China

Shizilin Yuan or Lion Grove Garden is added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, clubbed together with other classical gardens of Suzhou like the Humble Administrator’s Garden. It was built by a monk to commemorate his teacher, the late monk Zhongfeng in the year 1342, during the reign of the Yuan Dynasty. But as fate would have it, over the years it went from owner to owner, being modified and restored several times, until it was finally donated to the government in 1949. Famous personalities like scholars and emperors visited this garden to give their appreciation for the meticulous design.

Suzhou Museum station or Shizilin South station are both ideal for this destination and there are multiple buses making the trip there from all across town. For admission you’ll have to pay RMB40 when visiting from April-September (except June) and RMB30 from November to March and June. Senior citizens above 60 (with passport/id proof) and kids measuring under 4.9 but above 3.9 feet get half off while kids under 3.9 feet enjoy free admission when going with an adult. The timings are from 07:30 to 17:00. Early morning visit on a working day might provide a more secluded environment. People with claustrophobia should be cautious when entering the caves.

Located in the same area as the Humble Administrators Garden, at 2.7 acres, Shizlin Garden is half the size of the former. But it follows a much different theme centered mainly around the rock formations. These rockeries are really fascinating to behold and were the reason behind the unique name of the garden. Originally, they are said to have looked like a pride of lions playing, dancing and roaring but the shapes got weathered with time. What remains now is the labyrinth of a rock cave that is as much fun exploring for adults as it is for children. There are more then 20 caverns which twist and turn, lead to peaks and valleys. It’s like a mini mountain among the trees.

Besides this iconic rock cave, the garden also has pavilions, plants and various beautiful vistas for guests to enjoy. The Yanyu Hall is the central building and was even built to entertain visitors to the magnificent garden.

Further ahead is the Zhenquting, which has a stele on which Emperor Qianlong inscribed the words ‘True Delight’ upon setting his sights on Shizilin. Thus the hall was built to immortalize this honor and literally means True Delight Hall. It was built most elaborately since the emperor visited this place a total of 6 times!

A magnificent pavilion is the Plum Blossom Greeting Pavilion. It has many of the plum blossom trees growing around it and inspired the layout of the building which is a true treat to romantics.
There are interesting constructions inside the building with many gorgeous views afforded by artistic flower and tree placements. Mostly the structure is considered to be an example of Zen Buddhism and has had a big hand in shaping horticulture around the orient.

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