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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 painting.

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 Dynasty (1368-1644).

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.


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