Friday, September 14, 2012

Summer Travels 2012 - Part 2: The Master of Nets Garden in Suzhou, China

Things have been really busy here with the beginning of the new semester, so unfortunately this blog has been giving short shrift for the past weeks. As things settle back into a more predictable routine I hope I will do better in days to come. Getting back to my summer adventures, the second of Suzhou's numerous well-known gardens that we visited is the Wǎngshī Yuán 网师园 or Master of Nets Garden. Much smaller than the Garden of the Humble Administrator, this property is even more elegant and intimate and was also much less busy with visitors.

 An entrance hall

The garden is designed as a series of courtyards and enclosed gardens interwoven with the halls and pavilions that make up the house. As a result, it seems much lager than it actually is and offers many pretty views as well as a staggering amount of detail.

Flowing, almost imperceptible transitions between inside and outside... Note the continuation of the cracked ice pattern of the door screens in the paving design

 View across the main pond

Rockery and plantings along one edge of the pond

Picture-book view...

Zigzag bridge!

Like the rest of Suzhou's gardens, this property is generally considered a product of the illustrious Ming Dynasty. However, the first record of the site being developed as a garden estate actually stems from the earlier Song Dynasty and its current appearance was reportedly developed mainly by a series of owners during the later Qing Dynasty. 

In the section of the garden devoted to herbaceous peonies

A diminutive "cave"

A covered walk

More fantastic rocks

The garden's most iconic cluster of buildings

The Master of Nets Garden is further notable as being the model for the Astor Court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Installed by Chinese craftsmen in 1980, partially as a symbol and celebration of improving relations between China and the US, this centerpiece of the museum's exhibits of Asian art aims to recreate a Ming Dynasty garden courtyard and is closely based on the Late Spring Studio Courtyard at the Master of Nets Garden.

Section of the Late Spring Studio Courtyard that inspired the Astor Court at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art

Coincidentally, the MET also currently has an exhibition entitled "Chinese Gardens: Pavilions, Studios, Retreats" which "explores the rich interactions between pictorial and garden arts in China across more than one thousand years". You can check the website for more details here. The exhibition runs until January 6, so if you happen to be in New York City during that time, go and check it out!


  1. Such an amazing looking place that we're hoping to see one day!

  2. Chinese gardens are always so peaceful with wonderful structure. Thanks for taking us along.


Thanks for stopping by!