Garden to linger in: Suzhou’s elegant classical Chinese gardens; Tess Humphrys; Lonely Planet

China – Classical Gardens of Suzhou

As well as being known as the ‘Venice of the East’, thanks to its network of picturesque canals, the elegant city of Suzhou on China’s eastern seaboard is also famed for its classical gardens.

There are currently 69 gardens preserved in Suzhou, with nine designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site. But what makes Suzhou’s gardens so special? And what should we look out for when we visit them?

Suzhou’s fertile history

Nestled in the lower reaches of the Yangzi River, on the shores of Lake Tai – one of China’s largest freshwater lakes – Suzhou has long benefited from the fertile lands that surround it and the social stability they have supported.

The city we now know as Suzhou was founded in 514BC as the capital of the-then state of Wu. Leaders took advantage of Suzhou’s natural environment, building elegant royal residences and game parks, and the royal court prospered thanks to the rich fishing and rice cultivation on the Yangzi Delta.

In the early 5th century BC, the Wu state fell and King Helü died and was buried at Tiger Hill, still in existence today.

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