Shanghai Yu Garden (Yuyuan Garden, Yu Yuan Garden), China

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Yu Garden

Yu Garden (Yuyuan Garden, Yu Yuan Garden) is a famous old southern garden, located at Anren Street in Shanghai's Old City, covering an area of over 20,000 square meters.

Construction began in the Ming dynasty, giving the garden more than 500 years of history, and is one of the best-preserved large old-style private gardens in Shanghai.

Yu Garden was built in 1577 during the Jiajing reign of the Ming dynasty, and is a mansion-style private garden. It was built by Pan Yunduan, a former treasurer of Sichuan Province during the Ming dynasty.

He built the garden to please his parents in their old age and so named it "Yu Garden Garden", meaning "pleasing garden" in ancient Chinese. This old garden was once renowned as the finest in the southeast, and remains to this day one of the most famous gardens south of the Yangtze River.

Entering the gates, the first building you encounter is the Three-Corn Ear Hall. Looking up you can read a plaque inscribed, "Mountains and Forests in the City", reflecting the surroundings as a setting of tranquility amidst the bustling city.

Crossing the Yangshan Hall ("Hall for Viewing the Mountain") you see the grand rockery rising majestically from beyond a pond. The famous landscape architect Zhang Nanyang, using over 2,000 tons of rocks brought all the way from Wukang, Zhejiang Province, constructed this large rockery.

It is roughly 20 meters high and was once the highest point in Shanghai, taking on the name "Pavilion for Viewing the River". Although you can no longer see the Huangpu River from the top, you can nevertheless get a spectacular bird's eye view of the garden's beautiful scenery.

Another interesting aspect of the garden is that it contains a garden within a garden, the Inner Garden. The Yu Garden Inner Garden was built in the 48th year of the reign of Kangxi of the Qing dynasty (1709).

It has a total area of only 1,333 square meters, but possesses a complete and exquisite collection of pavilions, pagodas, pools and rockeries. It even boasts its own theater - the Quyuan - once called the finest stage south of the river. It is relatively rare for a private garden to have its own theater and is well worth a visit.

In front of the Yuhua Hall in the inner garden, there are three rockeries, the middle of which is known as ‘Yulinglong. It is 3.3 meters tall and is dappled with 72 holes. If you pour a basin of water from the top, the water will flow out from all the holes like water gushing from a well; if you place a stick of incense at the base, you can see the smoke gently rising from every hole.

On the top the characters "Yuhua" are inscribed, which mean "exquisite jade stone". It now has over 400 years of history. The adjacent Yuhua Hall was specially constructed by the garden's owners to admire this beautiful stone.

The walls of Yu Garden are adorned with an undulating dragon dividing the garden into different areas, yet maintaining a harmonious unity - the variety of scenic areas is one of the garden's greatest characteristics. The garden has 48 different scenic attractions including the Grand Rockery, Chamber of Ten Thousand Flowers, Spring Pavilion, Scenery Gathering Pavilion, "Yulinglong", and Gathering the Moon Pavilion.

The Society of Small Swords used the Spring Pavilion as a meeting place to plan an uprising against the French colonialists and the Qing government. Inside the pavilion a number of items such as weapons, documents, and self-minted coins are displayed.

There are also many other scenic spots, such as the Happy Fish Waterside Pavilion, Hall of Mildness, Hall of Beauty, Inner Garden, Nine Curve Bridge, Lotus Flower Pond and Huxin Pavilion.

This beautiful and elegant garden, representing the architectural styles of the Ming and Qing dynasties, is known for its uneven towers, pavilions, and its delicate and secluded beauty. Visitors experience the overall harmony of the gardens by first paying attention to the smaller details, before taking in the whole.

This true masterpiece of ancient Chinese landscape architecture has become a popular attraction for visitors from both home and abroad, and has been designated as a Protected State Relic.