Top:  Two visits to the tea countries of China and the British tea plantations in the Himalaya (1853)

Bottom: Nine Zigzag Bridge, photo by Kwong Yee Cheng 2012 from flickr

**please do not remove credit for bottom photograph**

I couldn’t help noticing the lovely plate of the “Garden at Shanghae” from the volume recently digitized by Harvard Botany for the Biodiversity Heritage Library. It looked….familiar. That’s because the only thing that’s changed at YuYuan in Shanghai is that it’s gotten more crowded.

Yu Yuan : the garden of peace

Yuyuan is a 400 year old classical Chinese garden in the Old Town of Shanghai, laid out in the Suzhou style.

Either you go by bus, by taxi or by tube, you have to make your way through the bustling bazaar to the garden entrance. The bazaar itself is surrounded by a maze of old laneways and alleys where locals live. It can take a while to figure out where to go, and not without struggling across it. The marketplace is stuffed with a great number of stalls and vendors selling food, traditional products, handicrafts, antiques, gold, gems and packed with tourists and local people. It can be kitschy but it’s always fun. 

Immediately upon entering the garden you are struck by the beauty of the landscaping. It is a quiet and elegant place surrounded by old trees, bamboos, beautiful flowers, ponds, dragon walls, Ming Lions and other mythical figures.

 One of the most interesting sights of Yuyuan Garden is the Jade Rock. What is interesting about this rock is that if you burn a stick just below the rock, the smoke will magically float out from all of the holes. Similarly, when you pour water into the rock from top, the water will flow out from each hole creating a spectacular sight to see. 

I’ve been lucky enough to come to visit the garden on a nice sunny autumn day when all the tourists apparently decided to stay in the bazaar practicing their haggling skills, letting me enjoying a nice reading and the peace of the Yu Yuan sitting next to the beautiful lotus pond.