Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai

Another of the most famous gardens in China, is the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai. Read my post on the Lingering Garden in Suzhou, to get more facts about what a Chinese garden stands for.

 

Yu Garden or Yuyuan Garden, means Garden of Happiness in Chinese. Yuyuan Garden is located in the center of Shanghai’s Old City, a few blocks south of the Bund, and it has a total area of about two hectares (five acres). People say that the Yuyuan Garden is so exquisite that it can be comparable to the Humble Administrator’s Garden in Suzhou,

Just outside the entrance of the garden is a lake with the famous Huxinting teahouse, built 1784. It is standing on stilts, and there is a zig-zag constructed bridge leading up to it. According to traditional Chinese beliefs, this zig-zag design is not only for aesthetic appeal. It is also important for keeping the evil spirits from getting into the pavilion – evil spirits can not turn around corners…

Many famous people have visited here – for example the Queen of England.

Something I noticed immediately was the fact that the traditional male and female lions were a bit different here compared to all the other ones I have seen in China. These two are looking at each other instead of straight forward, and the female has a cub, or child, standing upright instead of lying on its back under her paw. The male has his usual power grip on the ball…Somehow these differences made the statues feel much more human.

Yuyuan Garden is believed to have been built in the Ming Dynasty, 1559, more than 400 years ago. At first it was the private garden of the Pan family in the Ming Dynasty, and it was the largest and most prestigious of its era in Shanghai after it was completed. The exquisite layout and the artistic style of the garden architecture have made the garden one of the highlights of Shanghai.

A centerpiece, and one of the highlights of the garden is the Exquisite Jade Rock. It is a 5-ton, porous, beautifully-shaped rock, which is said to have been carried from Taihu (Tai Lake) in Wuxi, Jiangsu province. The rock is characterized by its wrinkled appearance, slender shape, translucent nature and numerous holes eroded by water. Rumour has it that it was meant for the imperial palace in Beijing, but was salvaged after the boat sank off Shanghai.

Yu means ‘peaceful’ in Chinese, and so it really is. This despite its closeness to the big shopping area of bazaars.

Yuyuan Garden was first conceived by Pan Yunduan, an officer in the Ming Dynasty, for his parents to spend a quiet and happy life in their old age.

However, during the Opium Wars, the garden was badly damaged. In 1961, after five years of repairs, Yuyuan Garden was re-opened to the public, though it was not as charming as the original one. It was also partly destroyed in the Great Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). During 1986-1993, the government made another effort to repair the garden, the results of which we see today.

Feeding the Koi fish is popular. Fish is a must here as in every garden. It stands for prosperity.

Today, Yu Garden is divided into six general areas laid out in the Suzhou style with halls and chambers, an Inner garden with rockeries, ponds, pavilions and towers.

Each area is separated from the others by ”dragon walls” with undulating gray tiled ridges, each terminating in a dragon’s head. Sometimes just hiding behind a tree trunk and surprising the visitor with its huge head.

Chinese dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology and Chinese folklore. The dragons have many animal-like forms such as turtles, and also imaginary creatures, but they are most commonly depicted as snake-like with four legs. In yin and yang terminology, a dragon is yang and complements a yin, a phoenix.

Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers. The dragon is also a symbol of power, strength, and good luck for people who are worthy of it. The Emperor usually used the dragon as a symbol of his imperial power and strength.

In Chinese daily language, excellent and outstanding people are compared to a dragon, and a number of Chinese proverbs and idioms feature references to a dragon, for example: ”Hoping one’s son will become a dragon”.

Being a tree lover, I immensely enjoy Chinese gardens. One of my absolute favourites here, was a 400- year-old Ginko Biloba.

A perfect mix. And the dragon…is everywhere…

Details are essential in a Chinese garden. Perfection.

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