Hangzhou gardens standing the tests of time

Shanghai Daily takes a close look at three gardens spread in close proximity along the shady Yanggong Causeway in Hangzhou 

Visitors never fail to be captivated by the Chinese gardens in Suzhou, yet few people know that Hangzhou was once a prominent city of private gardens as well. 

During the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) there were over 100 gardens in Hangzhou. Unfortunately a large part of them were destroyed during upheavals and wars and were never restored again. 

But visitors to Hangzhou won’t be disappointed with the remaining gardens that survived the years of historical tumult. Shanghai Daily takes a close look at three of them spread in close proximity along the shady Yanggong Causeway. 

Hangzhou gardens standing the tests of time

A view at Guozhuang Garden

Guozhuang Garden 郭庄

 Originally known as “Duanyou Villa,” the garden was built in 1907 by a silk merchant in Hangzhou. It was later sold to Guo Shilin and renamed “Fenyang Villa.” Since then locals have called it Guozhuang — Guo’s residence.

The garden is adjacent to the Breeze-ruffled Lotus at Quyuan Garden, one of the 10 Scenes of the West Lake. It extends to an overall area of 9,788 square meters while the ponds inside are linked to the West Lake.

Chen Congzhou, an expert on Chinese gardens, speaks highly of Guozhuang and says it is one of the top gardens in Hangzhou. And owing to Chen’s effort and insistence, the garden was revived between 1989 and 1991 after 30 years of misuse and desertion.

The best part of the garden is the Jingsu Pavilion, which looks over the West Lake and a private landscape of mountains undisturbed by tourists. Through the moon gate of the pavilion, visitors can see the archway of Yadi Bridge on Su Causeway at the other end of the lake.

Flower shows are held in the garden quarterly and, through May 20, visitors can appreciate over 700 types of roses blooming on the moon gate, along the galleries, beside the ponds or in bonsais and vases.

Opening hours: 8am-5pm

Address: 28 Yanggong Causeway

Admission: 10 yuan (US$1.6)

Hangzhou gardens standing the tests of time

A view at Liuzhuang Garden

Liuzhuang Garden 刘庄

A few hundred meters away from Guozhuang, another important garden in China’s modern diplomatic history is situated.

Presently known as the West Lake State Guesthouse, the garden was a favorite place of residence in Hangzhou for the late Chairman Mao Zedong. 

Between 1953 and 1975, Mao stayed at the hotel 27 times. He also met with heads of state at the residence from over 40 countries, including former US President Richard Nixon’s ice-breaking visit in 1972. 

Nixon initialed a statement with then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. It was later formally signed in Shanghai and generally referred to as the Shanghai Communiqué, among all three communiqués signed in the following years.

In 2016, President Xi Jinping invited then US President Barack Obama for a cup of tea in the hotel after dinner during the G20 Summit held in Hangzhou.

The present hotel is actually an amalgamation of several Chinese gardens built in the early 20th century, including the largest one Liuzhuang (Liu Xuexun’s residence) and Kangzhuang, once owned by Kang Youwei, a renowned thinker and political reformer who favored the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in China.

The construction of Liuzhuang took about seven years and Liu filled the garden with bamboo plants and other expensive flowers, trees and furniture from southern Guangdong Province where he grew up. He named it “Residence of Bamboo and Water.”

When the last remaining concubine of Liu handed over the garden to the government in 1953, it went through a revamp by architect Dai Nianci. It enjoys an even broader view of the West Lake, with unrivaled scenery of the Su Causeway hidden in green and the Baochu and Leifeng pagodas faraway.

Opening hours: 9am-12pm

Address: 18 Yanggong Causeway

Admission: Free

Hangzhou gardens standing the tests of time

Jiangzhuang Garden 

Jiangzhuang Garden 蒋庄

Jiangzhuang is the smallest of the three private gardens on Yanggong Causeway. A stone bridge at its southeast corner connects it with the Su Causeway. Its south end is embraced by an inner part of the West Lake.

The garden was built between 1901 and 1923 and embraces 3,168 square meters. It was originally a retiring villa for a Wuxi native, Lian Quan, and his wife. It was later bought by Jiang Guobang, a rich businessman from Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, who took the place as a nursing home for his mother.

Jiang was a disciple and follower of Ma Yifu, a philosopher who tried to develop Confucian theories in a modern context. Jiang invited Ma to take up residence in his garden one year before Ma’s death in 1967.

The main building of the garden is now the Ma Yifu Memorial Hall, which introduces the life and contribution of the great thinker. His manuscripts and calligraphy works are also being exhibited.

The buildings in the garden are a mix of both traditional Chinese architecture and a Western style of that time. 

The garden is situated inside the former Xishan Park, which is now called Viewing Fish at Flower Pond, one of the 10 Scenes of the West Lake. The park is famed for its fishpond and a 10,000-square-meter peony garden. Pavilions and towers are dotted along the way.

Opening hours: All day (Ma Yifu Memorial Hall opens from 8am to 5pm.)

Address: 10 Yangong Causeway

Admission: Free

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