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z huoz h eng y ua n THE HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR’S GARDEN The Humble Administrator’s Garden, sometimes referred to as the­ Garden of the Unsuccessful Politician, is the largest of the Suzhou gardens and is deeply enriched by its association with the esteemed Ming artist Wen Zhengming, who painted views of the garden while a frequent visitor. The garden has three adjacent sections: the eastern, middle, and western gardens, with the middle garden being the most distinguished. ORIGINAL ENTRANCE The current entrance for visitors is through the eastern garden, but visitors should briskly walk through the east garden, enter the central garden, and continue to walk directly to the historic entry of the main residence—the entry hall with the ancient wisteria planted by Wen Zhengming as a gift to his friend, the garden’s owner, Wang Xiachen. Begin your tour here by first looking across the street to see the screen wall that defines the entry courtyard of the house, with the street passing through. This architectural device is seen at several of the Suzhou gardens, but the one here is particularly elegant and generously scaled. Walk north through the progression of hall and courtyards which are now a garden museum. Note the elevated walks at the center of the courtyards which provided dry footing from one pavilion to the next. The 34 the gardens of suzhou Central Garden 1. Former entrance to the residence 2. Contemporary entrance from the east garden to the central garden 3. Loquat Court 4. Hall of Distant Fragrance 5. Pavilion among firmiana and bamboo (borrowed scenery viewpoint) 6. Small Flying Rainbow Bridge 7. Winding garden corridors West Garden 8. Moon gate connecting the Central and West Gardens 9. “With Whom Shall I Sit?” fanshaped pavilion 10. Thirty-Six Pairs of Mandarin Ducks Hall East Central Residence Courtyards West Figure 19. Plan of the central and western sections of the Humble Administrator’s Garden and key plan showing relationship to the East Garden. the humble administrator’s garden 35 courtyards exhibit a succession of tree species, often beginning with magnolia in the first courtyard, a flowering fruit tree such as peach or pear in the second courtyard, an autumn foliage tree such as a maple in the third courtyard, and a pine tree in the fourth courtyard. These trees mark the seasonal progression of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. CENTRAL GARDEN The celebrated central garden has four areas: the Loquat Court, the central pond, the winding corridors in the northwest corner, and the area of the flying bridge in the southwest corner. The central garden was built over a period of sixteen years beginning in the fourth year of the reign of Zhengde of the Ming Dynasty (1509), by the imperial inspector Wang Xiachen. Wen Zhengming painted thirty-one scrolls of the garden in 1533 and another eight scenes of the garden in 1551. The garden’s name, Zhuozheng Yuan, is taken from an essay by the Jin Figure 20. The original courtyard entrance to the residence includes the wisteria planted by the Ming painter Wen Zhengming, which is visible through the gate. Enter the contemporary visitor’s entry but walk through the garden to start your tour of the Humble Administrator’s Garden here. 36 the gardens of suzhou Dynasty writer Pan Yue, “On Idle Living”: “Building a house and planting trees, watering the garden and growing vegetables are the affairs (zheng) of humble (zhuo) people . . . To cultivate my garden and sell my vegetable crop is the policy of the humble man.” THE LOQUAT COURT Walk so that you exit the north side of the residence at Loquat Court, a small garden with a pavilion to the east, a hilltop pavilion ahead, and a richly designed pavement in a cracked ice pattern. The pavement is among the most beautiful in any garden in China. A similar pattern is also used in the windows of the pavilion. To the northwest is a round gate the leads out to the large garden. Figure 21. The moon gate leading out of the Loquat Court into the central garden. the humble administrator’s garden 37 THE CENTRAL POND Carefully look across the garden as you approach, pass through, and stand on the other side of the round gate to appreciate the framing of first, a single view through the gate, and then the panoramic scrolling scene that Figure 22. The zigzag bridge among spring willows in the central garden. 38 the gardens of suzhou emerges on...


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