Pictures by: Father Tomas Del Valle-Reyes
With a history of more than 2,500 years, the ancient city of Suzhou, boasting splendid scenery, rich cultural heritage and abundant agricultural products, is situated in the Lower Yangtze basin by the side of Lake Tai. Ever since the founding of Suzhou as the capital of the Wu Kingdom in 514 B.C., it has been the political, economic and cultural center of the region. As a place famed for its well-known scholars, successful merchants, great architects and distinguished artists, Suzhou provides favorable conditions for the creation and development of classical gardens.
Spring and Autumn period in the 6th century B.C. The Pijiang Garden was recorded as the earliest private garden--house dating from the 4th century Eastern Jin Dynasties. More gardens were built in the centuries that followed. During the prosperous Ming and Qing Dynasties, from the 16th to the 18th centuries that followed.
During the prosperous Ming and Qing Dynasties, from the 16th to the 18th century in particular. Suzhou saw a booming economy. Consequently, the number of gardens in the city of Suzhou and its environs increased a great deal, mounting to 200 odd. Dozens of them have survived to the present and are kept in a good state of preservation. With their numerical superiority and artistic perfection, the classical garden of Suzhou has had a good reputation in this part of China, popularly known as "the earthly paradise".