Thursday, March 29, 2018

Yu Garden.

I first visited Yu Garden when I came to Shanghai in 2009. Back then, I didn't do any pre-trip research so I had absolutely no idea that this place existed.  I came to the area because I found out about Yu Bazaar, the shopping complex that surrounds the garden.  Only when I arrived, did I see the ticket counter for Yu Garden and decided to check it out.  On that visit, there were few tourists around so I pretty much strolled through the place on my own.  It was such a peaceful and tranquil place to be.  Today, when I saw the horde of people entering Yu Bazaar, I realized that it would be high chance that many of those people would be visiting the garden as well.  Sadly, peace and tranquility through a lovely green garden would not be on the agenda today.

From the main street, we entered Yu Bazaar and immediately were submerged into an ocean of people....mainly tourists.  Still, I do love the architecture here.  The fact that whoever built this shopping complex decided that the structures should blend with those in the garden was a smart move because it now looks like the garden belongs as part of the complex even though it was here long before any of these buildings were even conceived of.

Instead of just stumbling upon the garden, we followed the sign posts and navigated our way to it.  We found the ticket counter and we sent Bro, who has been delegated to be the group banker, to buy our tickets.

Just outside the entrance of the garden is a man made lake, atop sits Huxinting teahouse which was built in 1784.  To get to the teahouse, you have to cross a bridge that zig and zags in an inefficient manner across the water. This is not only for aesthetic appeal. According to Chinese myth, the hard angles of the design are an important way to keep evil spirits from getting through the doors, as they are believed not to be able to turn corners.

I don't know how I entered the garden previously but today, we passed under a beautiful entry archway and from there just took whatever path would lead us further and further into the garden.

Yu Garden was first established in 1559 as the private garden of Pan Yunduan, a government official in the Ming Dynasty. Yu means *pleasing and satisfying* and Pan Yunduan built this garden for his parents to enjoy a happy and peaceful life at their old age.

Pan Yunduan himself lived a very leisure and happy life in this garden. Later, the garden was inherited by Zhang Zhaolin, the husband of Pan Yunduan’s granddaughter.  Over the centuries, ownership of the garden passed through different hands.  Over that same period, garden had also fallen into disrepair numerous times and renovated.  The garden you see today is the result of a five year restoration project which began in 1956. It was open to the public in September, 1961.

Yu Garden covers an area of 20,000 square meters (about 5 acres) and is a virtual maze of gardens, pavilions, lake, rockeries, bridges, dragon walls, gardens and traditional buildings, etc.  The garden is divided into six main scenic parts: Sansui Hall, Wanhua Hall, Dianchun Hall, Huijing Hall, Yuhua Hall and the Inner Garden. There are no signs that tell you which of the six sections you are about to enter or are in so I have no idea which photos I took are of which section.  Having been here before, I just decided to enjoy my walk through the garden. 

On my previous visit, I didn't take all that many photos and before this trip, I took a look back at them.  I'm glad I did because today, I recognized many of the sights I saw from looking at those photos.  The photo below is one of those places.   The photo immediately below is the one I took today.

This is the photo I took in 2009.  Notice what's missing?  People!  No offense to myself but I like the angle of the photo I took in 2009 better than the one I took today.  I am digressing in my composition skills.  😁

Each of the six sections of the garden has its own features and unique sights and each area is separated from others by white “dragon walls” with undulating gray tiled ridges, each terminating in a dragon’s head.  

Several of the pavilions have rooms that are open for view.  All I can say is that Chinese interior spaces were not designed for lounging.  Hard to slump comfortably in those rosewood chairs.

The art of bonsai originated in China and made its way to Japan where it became the art form we know today.  Yes, I call it art.  So, bonsais in China are often not quite as miniature as their Japanese cousins but here is where you can see how the concept of miniaturizing plants took hold.

A blooming camellia, sign that spring has arrived.

Chinese love rocks so it's no surprise that in one of the six garden sections, you come upon the loftily named Grand Rockery, a 12 meter (39 feet) high formation made of 2,000 tons of rare yellow stones brought all the way from Wukang in Zhejiang Province. Each rock was fused to the other using a combination of rice glue and limestone to create a formation that essentially evokes a mini landscape of cliffs, winding paths and gorges – purportedly designed by famous garden artist of the Ming Dynasty, Zhang Nanyang.

I know I'm here to see gardens but one thing that really captured my attention was all the artwork that was above my head.  Beautiful plaques and roof toppers decorated many of the pavilions and walls.  Sometimes, it seemed like the clusters of small stucco sculptures were designed and placed together to tell a mini-story.

The six sections of Yu Garden are separated by *dragon walls*, undulating gray tiled ridges terminating with an ornate dragons head.

There's also this sculpture which I remember from my 2009 visit.  I want to say he's a foo lion but I don't think that's the case.  I don't know what it represents but it's so ugly, it's memorable.

If only he would move a few inches to the right and he would be perfectly centered for my photo 😁

Throughout the garden are ponds, many of them filled with koi and the occasional turtle.

I loved how the color of the woman's sneakers matched the koi. 😁

There were also quite a few sections of covered walkways.  Nice place to sit and take a break.

Even though there were a lot of people in the garden today, there were plenty of spots that you could go to to escape from the crowds.  Only after today did I realize just how lucky I was when I was here in 2009 and there so few people here that at times, I felt like I had the entire garden all to myself. 

Chinese love to pose for photos.  That's my general conclusion.

I spotted the bird atop one of the pavilion roofs.  At first I thought it was real as it's not uncommon to see storks building their nests atop man made structures.  Only when I zoomed in using my lens did I realize this one is sculpted.  Looks real if you see it from a distance.

Same girl, different pond.  I recognized her from the color of her sneakers 😁

In one of the sections of the garden is displayed a tall rock, riddled with holes and fissures. People were taking photos so it obviously was something special.  This is the Exquisite Jade Rock which oddly is not jade.

These types of hole ridden rocks are partly man in that a solid rock is deliberately submerged into water and left to be carved by the eddies and currents of moving water.   Legend has it that the Exquisite Jade Rock  was originally commissioned by the Huizong Emperor, who reigned over the Northern Song Dynasty from 1100-1126 AD.  On its way to delivery to the emperor, the ship that was carrying the rock reportedly sunk in Huangpu River and was later retrieved by Pan Yunduan. This stone is noted for its elegant edges and interesting facade, and its pockets of dents and crevices make it so that incense lit at its bottom will see smoke flow from every opening. Pan Yunduan so loved this rock, he built a study to look directly out onto it.

In several sections of the walkways, you have these beautiful carved window screens which allow air to flow in and out but also offer a wee bit of privacy.

It took us about an hour and half to make our way through the garden and I think that was just enough time for us.  If you're a Chinese garden aficionado, you could easily spend a good half day here but we were ready to leave once we made it to the exit; no one was interested in going back and revisiting any particular section.  So, it was back out to the bazaar and the sea of people which I swear had swelled up to twice the size it was when we arrived earlier in the morning.

I offered up for Bro and SK to have lunch here but the sight of all the tourists and the high possibility that we would only get high priced tourist food here turned them off.  I cannot blame them and in fact, I was not so keen on eating here either especially as I know there are plenty of food eating options outside the bazaar.  On my 2009 visit, I did eat a cafeteria style place here -  just some simple dumplings and a soda.

Next destination.  Shanghai Old Street and hopefully, a place to have lunch.