Retreat and Reflection Garden
or The Garden of Quiet Meditation
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The Garden of Quiet Meditation
Source: Suzhou Gardens, China Architecture & Building Press
This garden is located in the old town of Tongli, in Jiangnan water county. The
garden's views are simple, but elegant. One of these views is called Tieshui Garden.
The Garden of Quiet Meditation's layout follows the topography; it reaches beyond
the ordinary. From west to east it is arranged horizontally, with residence on
the left, a courtyard in the middle, and garden on the right; the garden's views
are thus entered one by one, finally arriving at the superlative scenery.
The Garden of Quiet Meditation was built in the 11th to 13th year of Qing dynasty's Guangxu period (1885-1887 A.D.). The garden owner's name was Ren Lansheng. He had also been dismissed from office, and in order to remedy for his wrongdoings he gave the garden its name. The garden designer's name was Yuan Long; he was well versed in poetry, literature, calligraphy and painting. Following the characterstics of water county he designed it carefully, and then spent two years to build it. The garden occupies a little less than 0.65 hectare, and combines many different garden construction methods; and is a specimen of excellence.
Water forms the central point of the Garden of Quiet Meditation, with buildings and rockeries arranged along the water's edge; buildings are erected close to the water surface, emphasizing the vastness of the water area. Thus it is also called Tieshui Garden. Special for the Garden of Quiet Meditation is that water and buildings are very close; as if the garden floats on water. Compared to other gardens, this gives the feeling of motion.
The Retreat and Reflection Garden
The Retreat and Reflection Garden is composed of the housing complex, garden courts and a garden which are aligned on a west-east axis.
The housing complex consists of inner and outer houses. The outer house has a succession of three halls. The inner house to the east is made up of two two-storied buildings in the shape of "U", reached by two stairways on two sides.
The spacious garden court is the transitional area between the housing complex and the garden. There's a boat-like pavilion near the entrance for the reception of guests, a form of architecture typical in the Venetian region of Tongli.
The garden to the east is the cream of the property. Small and exquisite buildings,built close to the pond, are in admirable proportion to water scapes and landscape. The thatched Hall of Retreat and Reflection, a main structure of the garden, was constructed on the moon-viewing terrace, from which one is able to feast his eyes on surrounding scenes. Carefully arranged and well-spaced buildings around the pond include the Lotus Blooms Pavilion, the Stone Boat, the Hardship Terrace, the Zizania Rain Brings Coolness Pavilion, and the Celetial Bridge which is, in fact, a rare double-gallery in the south of the Lower Yangtze. To the southwest of the garden is the Osmanthus Fragrans Lour Hall in a peaceful and enclosed mini-garden within the garden. At the northwest corner is the Gathering Beauty Pavilion that overlooks the entire garden. The pavilion, connected with the Lasting Spring and Moon Viewing Tower in the middle part, borrows scenes from the garden and vice versa, an excellent example of garden scenes in the south of the Lower Yangtze.
In short, the Retreat and Reflection garden is full of changing vistas. There are gardens within the garden, principal and subordinate scenes. Space, including water space, has been ingeniously handled to suggest more space. Endless scenes have been created within limits. It serves as a fine example of how the few surpassing the many.
The Retreat and Reflection Garden possesses 24 buildings, 28 tablets and plateaux, 12 steles, and 15 valuable old trees such as magnolia denudata Desr., celtis sinensis Pers, etc.