It was already hot and humid when I walked out of the Yuyuan Garden subway station. It took a little searching for the right way, but when I saw sculptures on top of eaved roofs, I knew I was close, and only had to find the entrance. Walking around the garden through a touristy alley full of small shops, I quickly paid the entrance fee and entered what I hoped would be a quiet oasis. But even though the garden was just open, large groups of tourists already crowded the first pavilion. Assuming that no other groups would come very soon, I just waited patiently on a veranda on a small pool with a rocky landscape on the other side, until behind me, I did not hear any more noise. Indeed, I now had the pavilion to myself, and I took time to see the inside, walk around it, and enjoy the silence. I then slowly moved ahead, on my exploration of the extensive Yuyuan Garden, technically, Yu Garden. Founded during the Ming era in 1559 by Pan Yunduan for his father, the two-hectare garden had highs and lows, damaged during several wars, occupied, until it was finally restored in the late 1950s.
Walking Yuyuan Garden, I was especially attracted to the oddly shaped doors and openings in walls, which gave the garden an artistic touch. Then, there were the Double-Lane corridor, with wood-framed openings in the crooked wall, like peep-holes allowing for looks on the other side of the wall. I peeked into the several pavilions on the way, with romantic and poetic descriptions in English, past high rocks representing rugged landscapes, until I reached the Dragon Wall. With an undulating wall, topped by a dragon tail, there were two large dragon heads at the edges, with fierce eyes, and claws sticking out. From here, I walked south, past small lakes, elegant towers and exhibition halls, until I reached a small, open pavilion on a one of the largest pools. I decided I deserved a rest, sat down, and just watched the environment, the people moving past, and the carp in the pond. At the same time, I tried to imagine how these gardens were once the retreat of Pan En, the father of Pan Yunduan, and how the old man must have enjoyed spending his days in this small corner of paradise.
From the Toasting Pavilion, I moved to the eastern side of Yuyuan Garden, and walked small paths, through rock formations which sometimes were slippery after all the rain that had fallen the previous days, walking up small hills with yet more pavilions, until I reached a more open area, with zig-zag bridges over pools, large towers, and finally, the far southern part of Yuyuan Garden where I found the Big Stage under reconstruction. Walking back north, I found circular openings in walls, offering nice views of the pools, bridges and gardens lying behind. The temperature had now reached a point where it was uncomfortable to be in the sun, and Yuyuan Garden was now quickly filling with lots of people; it had now lost its peacefulness, and although it was somehow nice to listen to all the languages around me, I decided it was time to be on my way out. Besides, walking around the garden for a couple of hours had made me very thirsty. In style, I went through what seemed like a secret passage, and directly returned to the main entrance.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Yuyuan Garden (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Yuyuan Garden.
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