A visit to Shanghai can be daunting when you figure that there are 24,000 people per kilometer not counting the huge tourist population. Since the city is wall to wall people and cars, visiting a garden in the middle of the city is very appealing. We were in Shangai as the Expo was winding down so the city probably had more tourists than usual but we were disappointed to find that the garden was crowded too. Crowded or not, Yuyuan is lovely, interesting, and well worth visiting.

The garden is located in the center of the old city of Shanghai and is surrounded by a bazaar with shopkeepers and eating places of all sorts including the one with golden arches. It is a classical Chinese garden originally dating back to the Ming dynasty in the 1500s. It occupies about 5 acres and was originally built by Pan Yunduan over a 20 year period for his father Pan En, a high-ranking government official. It has seen bad times and good over the centuries, but was restored beginning in 1956 and was opened to the public in 1961.

A wall separates the garden from the busy surroundings, but an imposing gate allows you to enter.

Walls also separate individual areas within the garden with various kinds of gateways. This moon gate leads to a rockery.

This wall looks like a dragon with its sinuous journey through the garden and its black tiles along its top.

Five gates in the wall have huge dragon heads allowing visitors to pass through.

All the paths through the garden are paved and the pavements are very decorative.

Same colors but different shaped stones give a very different feel and movement.

And this one combines elements of both of the others while introducing a new shape.

Here is an entirely different one.

Rocks are a strong element throughout the garden. Some stand like a statue in a western garden.

Others are in huge clusters, forming miniature mountains.

Passageways lead into a huge rockery .

The rockery is the highest point in the garden standing 46’ high, 197’ wide, and 131’ deep.

The most unique rocks are a group of three. The middle one is especially admired for its beauty and is called the Exquisite Jade Rock. It stands 10.8 feet high, weighs 5 tons and has 72 holes. The holes are interconnected so that if water or smoke is introduced into the rock through one of the holes at the top or bottom respectively it will come out the others. The holes, shape, and texture of the rock are the result of years of erosion in Lake Taihu located in Wuxi, Jiangsu province and rocks such as this are highly prized for use in gardens where they are meant to be contemplated.

The hardness of the rocks is softened by the vegetation.

Water, too, softens the hardness of the rock while also adding sparkle, reflections, and fluidity.

A waterfall creates the pleasant sound of splashing water.

A small stream passes quietly through a small, intimate area.

Numerous bridges enhance the waterways.

Here a zig zag bridge leads you along, changing your view at each bend.

A long open corridor offers a passageway over the water.

Numerous pavilions  are included within the garden walls.  Some sit at the water’s edge;

Another  sits over the water with fish swimming below.

This one offers a chance to contemplate the surroundings away from the crowd.

A vase-shaped door opens into a covered corridor.

Within the corridor, more vase-shaped doorways lead you along the way by giving you a glimpse of what is to come.

Leaky windows pierce the wall and create a pattern along its surface;

And they allow you to catch sight of the scenes on the other side of the wall.

A grove of bamboo creates a shady area.

Tall Metasequoias create a cathedral effect.

The warm climate favors the growth of these cycads.

And these Podocarpus macrophyllus.

Trees and shrubs formed a nice setting in a small courtyard.

A bonsai decorates a small area.

An iron lion from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) stands guard with his mate at the doorway of the corridor leading toward the Ten Thousand Flowers Hall. The use of iron for sculpture is unusual as stone, wood or bronze were more commonly used.

The iron lions are not original to Pan Yunduan’s garden but, then, the inner garden isn’t either; it was built in 1709, over 100 years later. In addition, the whole garden is a restoration and the degree of authenticity in regard to Pan’s garden in unknown. Still, it is in the style of a classical Chinese scholar’s garden and is beautiful site to visit.

Chinese Gardens Pointer

By Karen