Located just outside the city, the “Jiangnan-style” gardens are amongst Shanghai’s most beautiful places to visit. They have a collective style which reflects the aesthetics and landscaping achievements of the Ming and Qing dynasties. There are at least five large Jiangnan gardens in Shanghai, but we particularly recommend Guyi and Zui Bai Chi, which are less crowded. They make a great day trip if you want to get away from the bustling city. These historic gardens have been carefully maintained, and they still present the unique features that were incorporated when they were designed and built many centuries ago. Understanding something of the history that lies behind these wonderful garden-scapes will, without doubt, enrich your travel experience.
Guyi Garden used to be the home of an official named Min Shiji. As a gift to his parents, he re-built the property on which they lived. He named it “Yi” Garden, “yi” meaning bountiful or wonderful in Chinese. Master bamboo sculptor Zhu Shansong worked intensively on the garden, bringing it to unprecedented heights of artistry. He planted bamboo throughout, and used intricately sculpted bamboo in every pagoda. The elegant garden became a great example of the Ming Dynasty’s architectural achievements.
During the Qing Dynasty, a man named Ye Jin purchased the property, and renamed it Guyi Garden after he had completed his radical renovation. He added pavilions, art galleries, libraries, and creeks that wound through the property. With greater visual impact and increased accessible space, Guyi Garden reached the height of its glory.
Today, visitors can admire the Recluse Hall at the heart of Guyi Garden. Grand in style yet subdued in colour, it has elaborately-decorated doors, windows and ceilings. And the Goose Pond was where Chinese writers created many great works, inspired by the garden’s sheer beauty.
Another stunning Jiangnan-style garden is Zui Bai Chi. This garden has gone through considerable changes in its history, because initially it was just a college student’s backyard. During both Ming and Qing dynasties, it was successively owned by two famous painters who envisioned Zui Bai Chi as an idyllic meeting place for their literary friends. Their landscaping concept gave it lotus ponds, bamboo gardens and strategically-placed rocks, creating a picturesque experience.
The elaborate Carved Flowers Hall can still be admired today, and the Guanyin Sculpture just opposite the hall is not to be missed. There is an expression in Chinese: “Like landscape, like building,” which aptly describes a unique view point at Zui Bai Chi Garden, where a little pagoda built against a rock looks out to a murmuring brook. Picture-perfect.
Shanghai’s top five Jiangnan-style gardens:
218 Huyi Road, Nanxiang Town, Jiading District, 21 km northwest from Shanghai city centre, Tel. +86 (0)21 5912 2225
Zui Bai Chi Garden
Renmin South Road, Songjiang District, 40 km from Shanghai city centre, Tel. +82 (0)21 5781 4763
132 Anren Street, Huangpu District, Tel. +86 (0)21 6326 0830
314 Dongda Street, Jiading District, Tel. +86 (0)21 5953 1949
14 Gongyuan Road, Qingpu District, Tel. +86 (0)21 5972 8861