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Yuyuan Garden

Yuyuan Garden, a place of peace and comfort in the heart of bustling China's Shanghai Municipality, dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Now a popular tourist destination, Yuyuan started out as a private garden created by Pan Yunduan, who spent almost 20 years -- and all of his savings -- to build a garden for his parents in their old age. He named the garden "Yuyuan" since "yu" means "peace and health" in Chinese.

The present-day Yuyuan Garden occupies an area of two hectares and is built in a style of the renowned Suzhou gardens, which are characterized by an exquisite layout, beautiful scenery and artistic architecture. Each pavilion, hall, stone and stream in the garden expresses the essence of South China's landscape design from the Ming and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

 Brief history

During the past 400 years, Yuyuan Garden, which has been restored and reopened several times, was most frequently in disarray. Due to the decline of the Pan family after Pan Yuduan's death, Yuyuan Garden gradually fell into disrepair.

In the 25th year (1760) of the Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty, local people raised money to buy part of the garden and had it repaired. During the Daoguang reign (1821-1850) of the Qing Dynasty, since the garden had been in disrepair for a long time, the local government designated some people to manage one out of its total 21 sections as a meeting place. Finally, 21 types of businesses emerged, each responsible for repairing one section of the garden.

Although the garden was improved by local seigneurs, several civil conflicts in the mid-19th century caused great damages.

In the 22nd year (1842) of the Daoguang reign during the Opium War, the British army invaded Shanghai city and settled in the Town God Temple for five days, severely destroying the garden.

In the 10th year (1860) of the Xianfeng reign, with the collaboration of the Qing government and imperialists to suppress the revolution of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, British and French allied forces plundered the Town God Temple again, causing more damage.

After the founding of new China in 1949, Yuyuan Garden underwent several repairs. In 1956, after Shanghai's liberation, the city government reconstructed the garden and refurbished its mien and beauty as in the olden days. Yuyuan Garden was finally reopened to the public in 1961, and the State Council declared it a national monument in 1982.

Now, over two hectares of the views at Yuyuan Garden have been restored, and the garden attracts countless visitors both from home and abroad every year.

Enchanting scenery

Yuyuan Garden is one of the treasures of garden art in Jiangnan (south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River).

Exquisite garden pavilions, terraces and towers reflect the delicacy and elegance of South China's gardens: Winding bridges link waterside pavilions with various halls; Shoals of fish swim leisurely in the small ponds, surrounded by artificial hills and grotesque rocks to form a harmonious picture of nature; and many beautiful and rare flowers are in bloom, dotted with green trees. The whole garden is delicately designed and its harmonious layout creates a poetic atmosphere. For visitors, the garden is a good introduction to the gardening arts of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

There are more than 40 scenic spots scattered throughout the garden, which is divided into six sections by five boundary walls. The six scenic areas include the Grand Rockery, the Ten-Thousand-Flower Pavilion, the Hall of Heralding Spring, the Hall of Jade Magnificence, the Inner Garden and the Lotus Pool.

The Grand Rockery is the most elaborate, venerable and glorious rockery in Southeastern China. Approximately 2,000 tons of stone were used to build this 14-meter-high rockery, which features perilous peaks, cliffs, winding caves and gorges -- all designed to give visitors a sense of standing before a great mountain. It is said that the Grand Rockery is the highest rockery in Shanghai, as well as the most magnificent rockery in Southeast China during the Ming Dynasty. Today, ascending the rockery, one can catch a panoramic view of the whole garden.

To the east of the Ten-Thousand-Flower Pavilion is the Dragon Wall. The white wall is adorned with a dragon's head and paved with scale-like tiles, creating the illusion of a huge dragon snaking its way along the garden to maintain peace and safety. The dragon was designed with only four claws - not five like at royal palaces -- to avoid irreverence and rebellion in the feudal society. According to legend, when the wall was first completed in the Qing Dynasty, the dragon had all five claws in place, like all dragons at royal palaces. But the feudal ruler regarded this as a sign of irreverence and rebellion and then removed one of the claws from each dragon.

 The Hall of Heralding Spring is located in the eastern part of Yuyuan Garden. This pavilion was built in 1820, the first year of Emperor Daoguang's reign. From September 1853 to February 1855, it served as the base of the Society of Little Swords ("Xiaodao Hui"), which led to an uprising against the Qing Dynasty, occupying Shanghai for 17 months. Today, weapons and coins made by the Society of Little Swords are exhibited in this hall. The Shanghai City Government named it the Callan Educational Base in 1994.

The Hall of Jade Magnificence is a study furnished entirely with rare rosewood pieces dating to the Ming Dynasty. A corridor, some brooks and mountain stones, etc, lie between the Hall of Jade Magnificence and the Ten-Thousand-Flower Pavilion.

The Inner Garden is a microcosm of Yuyuan Garden, created by combining the east and west gardens in 1956. Covering an area of only two mu (0.133 hectare), the Inner Garden was first built in the 48th year (1709) of the Kangxi reign of the Qing Dynasty. Its elegant rockeries, ponds and walls give the Inner Garden a delicate and exquisite beauty. 

Standing beside the Lotus Pool, one can spot groups of red cyprinoids swimming - a relaxed and harmonious scene that leaves an indelible impression of peace and tranquility.

Yuyuan Garden is a representative of the classical architectural style and is acknowledged as an architectural miracle in the region southeast of the Yangtze River.

 

There are two different parts in YuYuan Garden. First, a very touristic area, in which you will be able to go shopping. It is not a very interesting place, except for the fact that everything takes place in typically chinese buildings. You will find there a lot of little shops in which you can find some traditionnal gifts for your relatives or friends. Be careful anyway, because there are a lot of fakes ,You can also find jewelrys specialized in pearls and jade, but also gold and diamonds...

It does not really worth it to spend too much time there, as everything is very expensive.

The most interesting part is the garden itself, with the ponds, the rocks and the little bridges. The fee is 30 yuans for about 40 minutes of visit, but it really worth it. It really seems that the garden is far larger than it truly is. It is a true typical chinese old garden.

Admission Fee: CNY 40 (April 1st to June 30th, September 1st to November 30th)
CNY 30 (the rest months)
Opening Hours: 08:30 to 17:00
Bus Route: 11, 26, 64, 730, 926, 980, 932


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