Like a Literati: How to Enjoy Suzhou's Gardens

By That's Suzhou, November 11, 2020

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The historic city of Suzhou in Jiangsu province is famed for the classical garden residences built centuries ago so that scholar-officials, or literati, could enjoy nature without leaving home.

According to Dr Yiping Dong of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University’s Department of Architecture and Design, the gardens imitate classic Chinese landscape paintings: rocks represent mountains; ponds represent lakes. XJTLU researchers share tips to appreciate Suzhou’s gardens like the literati did hundreds of years ago. 


Stop and Smell the Flowers

“The Distant Fragrance Hall of the Humble Administrator’s Garden concentrates the fragrance of the lotus flowers that grow in the summer in the pond in front of the hall.” - Dr. Dong


Get a New Perspective 

“Door frames bring garden scenery to your eyes, and every window provides unique views. A pagoda that seems part of the garden’s scenery may actually be outside the garden, which makes the garden appear larger than it is.” - Dr. Dong


Step Into a Traditional Chinese Landscape Painting

“Outside a building, you may find special steps made from lake rock. When you stand on the steps, you can imagine you are on a mountain looking out at the water and mountain scenery.” - Dr Dong


Enjoy Gardens in Different Seasons 

“Every season provides a different experience. In the spring, you can see blossoms; in the summer, lotus flowers; in the autumn, colorful leaves; in the winter, you might see a little snow.” - Yaqin Zuo, PhD student, XJTLU Department of Architecture and Design


Go With the Flow 

“The gardens’ design represents a concept in Chinese philosophy that everything in the universe is constantly in movement – the design leads you from view to view. A veranda opens to a full view of a pond, then a pavilion on the other side attracts you to visit it. From the pavilion you see a bridge that leads you to scenery on the other side.” - Yaqin Zuo


To learn more about XJTLU, scan the QR code below or visit


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