The Humble Administrator's Garden is located in the northeastern part of Suzhou, and with a total area of approximately four hectares is the largest private garden in the city as well as one of the four most famous classic gardens in China (the others are the Summer Palace in Beijing, the Mountain Resort of Chengde, and the Garden for Lingering, also in Suzhou).
The garden is representative of Chinese classical gardens built during the Ming Dynasty, which are focused on a central pond with pavilions, terraces, chambers, and towers surrounding it.
The garden was first laid out in 1513 when the imperial inspector Wang Xianchen returned to Suzhou after retiring from public life. He named the garden after a quotation from an essay called “On Idle Living" by Pan Yue: "cultivating a garden and selling vegetable crops are the affairs of a humble man".
Unfortunately, after Wang’s death his son gambled away the garden and over the centuries it constantly changed hands, even serving as the residence of one of the kings leading the Taiping Rebellion, and was rebuilt on many occasions. As a result, it probably bears little resemblance to the original construction nowadays – although that in no way detracts from the pleasure of visiting it.
Three-fifths of the area of the Humble Administrator's Garden is covered magnificent ponds, many brimming with lotus flowers. Since all of the buildings are right next to the ponds, the garden often seems to be floating on the water.
Here’s a close-up of some of the Lotus flowers.
This lady was selling Lotus flowers for people to eat the seeds. I can’t say that I was too tempted to try one myself, but her business seemed good.
Inside the Celestial Spring Pavilion is a well that is believed to have survived from the Yuan Dynasty when the Dahong Temple was on this site.
The Traveling by the Sea teahouse is located in this boat-shaped stone building.