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Asian Art Museum

Course: Asian Art Museum > Unit 5

Lesson 1: China

Classical gardens of Suzhou

This video explores the classical gardens of Suzhou, which are considered to be some of the most beautiful gardens in China. Learn more about China on the Asian Art Museum's education website Created by Asian Art Museum.

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  • old spice man green style avatar for user Petrie (Peter S. Asiain III)
    At she said that Suzjhou is now enjoyed by all. When and how did the transition of Suzhou from private to public occurred?
    (9 votes)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user Elliott Bajema
      Suzhou is a city, so she's referring to the gardens, probably the most famous of which is the 'Humble Administrator's Garden' (拙政园) she mentions at . That was claimed by the Chinese government in 1949 around the time of the founding of the People's Republic of China, following a period of war with Japan, and a civil war. Most of the other gardens also became government owned sometime between then and 1955, and have been open to the general public since then.
      (13 votes)
  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user jieun.k.56391
    At , it shows three women playing instruments, but what are those instruments called?
    (3 votes)
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    • primosaur ultimate style avatar for user Simon Pu
      The leftmost one is playing a huqin (胡琴). There are many types of huqin, such as erhu or jinghu. However, I can't tell which one this is. It has two strings and is played with a bow, similar to a modern violin. However, unlike the violin, the hairs of the bow are actually in between the two strings, and the player must press the hairs against one out of the two by adjusting the hold in the right hand. The pitch is controlled with the left hand (similar to a violin or guitar).
      The middle one is a yangqin (扬琴). It is played by hitting the strings with little hammers.
      Finally, the one on the right is a pipa (琵琶). It looks like a lute or a guitar, and is played in a similar way. It has four strings and horizontal wooden bars along its neck which serve as frets.
      (11 votes)
  • starky ultimate style avatar for user Sojourn Soulman
    How many different types of plants are grown in the garden present day?
    (3 votes)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user jieun.k.56391
    The rocks have to be different now than their original/first state because of weathering, right?
    Are there any other famous rocks [sculptures?]
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user annakashdan
    Is garden design still an important part of Chinese culture?
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Video transcript

Suzhou is located in an area of lakes, canals, and bridges. Interspersed among the tree-lined streets of the Old City are some of the most beautiful gardens in China. The first of these gardens developed about a thousand years ago as rustic retreats from city life. Over the centuries they became more elaborate, designed for entertaining friends and displaying one's mastery of design and decor. The main elements of a Suzhou garden are ponds, plants, rockeries, and buildings. Various paths, covered walkways, and courtyards link these elements together. A variety of windows and gateways help lure the visitor through the many areas of the garden by offering glimpses of what is to come. Buildings are named to evoke a sentiment or mood. Here, at The Blue Waves Garden, is a hall dedicated to a hundred famous sages, whose portraits line the walls. Another hall praises the elegant bamboo growing nearby. The gardens we see today have changed considerably from their origins. For example, The Humble Administrator's Garden was named after a government official who was dismissed at court in 1509 and wished to pursue the humble life of a gardener. Later owners, however, changed this rustic retreat into a maze of pavilions, walkways, zig-zag paths, and fanciful bridges. It became the largest private garden in Suzhou. Artificial rockeries were very popular in later Chinese gardens. The rock symbolized mountains. They formed peaks and caverns that could be explored by the occupants or guests. Individual stones were excavated from nearby Lake Tai, and admired like sculptures. The Lion Grove Garden was named after some of the rocks that resembled lions. Here at The Lingering Garden, the largest stone in Suzhou was named Cloud Capped Peak. The essence of the Chinese garden is the sense of constantly shifting viewpoints. At The Master of Fishing Nets Garden, the beauty of the garden is never revealed all at once, but gradually, through a sequence of views, as if unrolling a Chinese painting. In Suzhou today, what were once private enclosures are now places of enjoyment for all.