Garden of the Master of the Nets
The Garden of the Master of the Nets is located in
Kuojiatou Alley in the south of Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province.
Once the former site of Wanjuan Hall in the Chunxi reign (1173) of the
Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), the Garden of the Master of the Nets occupies
a large area. The garden was called Yuyin and later fell into disuse. In the
30th year (1765) of the Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Song
Zongyuan, a retired official, bought a part of the garden during his seclusion,
and rebuilt it. It is said that Song Zongyuan had had enough of bureaucracy and
would like to become a fisherman in his retirement. He named himself Yuweng
(fisherman) after the name Yuyin. Because the garden is close to Wangshi (master
of the nets) Alley, it was called Garden of the Master of the Nets. The garden
was destroyed again at the end of the Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty. After
several repairs, the overall arrangement we see today came into being gradually.
In the Republic of China, Ye Gongchuo, Zhang Shanzi and Zhang Daqian once lived
here, and the two Zhangs fostered a young tiger for sketching.
The garden is divided to two parts, residential area and garden. The east one
is the residential area, with a gate facing to the south. When entering the
gate, one can come to side rooms for sedan-chair lackeys, guest reception and
living quarters. The doors and windows in each hall are carved delicately, and
rockeries are laid outside the windows. Flowers can be seen everywhere. This
building is a representative of medium-sized mansions in ancient Suzhou City.
The garden lies in the west and the north of the residential area, and
occupies about four fifths of the whole area. There are two gates leading from
the residential area to the garden. According to its structure, the garden can
be divided to three parts: the south, the central and the north.
The southern buildings form a small yard for dwelling and eating. Several
main buildings are three bays wide, with winding corridors and yellow stone
rockeries around, and it look like a deep and remote maze.
Because of devious corridors, and conceding, contrasting and foiling
technics, with a spacious pond in the center and with kiosks, doors and windows,
pavilions and corridors around, the interspaces look very remote and winding
despite of obturation. It becomes the main sight in the garden. The pond is
almost square, and on the waterside stand the Sheya Corridor, the Zhuoyinshui
Pavilion and a small stone bridge, making the pond look wider.
The building complex in the south comprises of several yards. The yards are
bright and clean, beautiful and quiet. They are suitable for reading and
A small door is opened in the west of the garden and outside lies a quiet
yard planted with Chinese herbaceous peonies. In the north of the yard is a
study, and in the south is the Lengquan Pavilion and the Hanbi Spring,
interlaced with beautiful plums, bamboos, banana trees and stones from the Taihu
Lake. A huge and simple Lingbi Stone is placed in the Lengquan Pavilion. It is
said to be a relic in the old residence of Tang Yin, a painter in the Ming
The composition of Garden of the Master of the Nets is actually
uninterrupted. Paths are everywhere, devious, natural and endless. These
buildings and the water pond serve as a foil to each other. The arrangement is
compact, and the structure is ingenious. The garden is worth the reputation of
the representative of Suzhou gardens.