Located inside the famous Shanghai Old City God Town (also known as Shanghai Yuyuan shopping bazaar), Yu Yuan Garden is the only over 400-year-old Ming Dynasty garden, attracting more and more visitors to explore and enjoy everyday. Maitaining as the busiest area in Shanghai for centuries, the whole Yuyuan shopping bazaar area is still keeping its traditional Ming and Qing building style, white painted walls, roofs with black tiles and curved-up eaves, terra-cotta animal decorations over every corner...The City God Temple brings many prayers and temple affairs are held periodically, thus gradually turned it into a business concentrating place, which is now a centre providing all kind of Shanghai local snacks and souvenirs. All of these made here more attractive, hilarious and alive.
Yuyuan garden is a typical South Chinese garden, which is featured by four specific characteristics: water, pavilions, plants and rockeries. Different from those imperial gardens in North China like the Summer Palace, South Chinese gardens are much smaller in size, but oppositely own more views. Wherever the angle is, it presents a beautiful view which you might only see in traditional Chinese paintings. Yuyuan Garden perfectly combines the features and made itself the essence of all.
It was originally ordered to be built in late Ming Dynasty(1559)by a Ming official, who intended to have a garden built as residence to entertain his parents, and was firstly named as "Yu Yuan", which means "pleasing one's parents"; Unfortunately, his parents passed away before it's completed. After lived inside for years, for bankruptcy halfway, he had to sell it out to a rice and bean business man; In the succeeding Qing Dynasty, some Shanghai local gentries and business men bought it for public gathering use, so it became a public garden instead of a private garden; In 1842, the opium period, Yuyuan garden was terribly destroyed by the British invading troops, and was turned into military use as garrison quarter; large scale of reconstruction was conducted in 1956... Going through time changes and repairs, it's formally open to visitors in 1961.
By stepping in the garden over a threshold, a huge piece of rock bearing the words meaning "beautiful views hidden inside" firstly comes into sight. It's not only a decoration but also a natural screen to prevent the outsiders from seeing what's inside. Words on the rock reflect the artistic way of Chinese gardening: hide the most exciting sceneries behind, more and more views are expecting you to explore inside. In this way, the visitors' curiosity and interest would be raised: Right behind the rock is the reception hall called "Hall of Three Corn-ear". It's firstly named as Hall of Longevity and Pleasure, but changed after it's sold to the rice and bean business man. Original wood furniture's are exhibited in the hall, with some other decorations placed up front as a vase and a mirror which are actually used for expressing good wishes of "peace and harmony" (The pronunciations of 'vase and mirror' in Chinese sounds similar with that of 'peace and harmony'). This is where the host of the garden receives his guests, treating them with tea and snacks to show hospitality.
Walking along the corridor, we come to the second reception hall used by the hostess, where she and women guests could chat and enjoy tea. Just facing outwards, a 7-meter-high rockery appears with a pavilion named "River Viewing Pavilion" on top. More than 2000 tons of rocks are used and stuck together with sticky rice juice. Water flows through numerous hidden winding paths inside the rockery down into the pond below, in which dozens of golden fish swimming happily. Pavilion on top use to be the highest point in Shanghai in old times, from where you could have a bird's eye view of the Huangpu River miles away dotted with boats.
Corridor besides the pond guarded by a pair of iron-made lion statues at the entrance seems to be the only path leading to the inner section, where the people living here stayed when no visitors. The corridor ends in a courtyard with a tower named "Thousands of Flowers Tower" standing and two gigantic trees planted in the middle. "Thousands of Flowers Tower" was used before for religious purpose and private conversations; the tree in the east is a magnolia tree, while the other in the west a ginkgo tree, which is called a living fossil lived millions of years ago. The dragon wall mentioned in most guide books can be seen clearly from the other side by going through this courtyard. What's interesting about his dragon wall is the delicate design and smart significance. With a toad under the mouth, the dragon raised up head, ready to mount the cloud; it's said that the two live on each other to survive, the toad lives on the saliva of the dragon while in turn scratch the dragon's chins which is made itchy by the saliva...As in ancient China, dragon was exclusively used by emperors and others would be chopped if dared to use any, so in order to avoid punishment from emperor, the host had it smartly designed by comparing himself as the toad below, and the dragon as the emperor. This combination tells he would serve the emperor with heart and soul.
Here brings us naturally the "Entertaining Section" of Yuyuan garden. "Hall of Ordering Spring" faces south, and was used for enjoying operas performed on the stage opposite to the hall, facing north. It is also used as headquarter of "small sword uprising troop" in the year of 1853 in late Qing dynasty (an early-period anti-feudal uprising organized by farmers).now there're still weapons, self-issued currency and documents used by the uprising troop exhibited inside; "Hall of Pleasantly Warm" also locates in this courtyard, inside which dozens pieces of antique furniture carved out of banyan tree wood are exhibited.
"Jade Stone"-treasure of Yuyuan garden, is erected in the next courtyard used as "Study Section" by the host. The stone is quarried from Taihu Lake further to the south, which is famous for the rich production of strange shaped rocks naturally chiseled by wind and water flows. Its shape is as exquisite as jade, thus the name” Jade stone".
Yuyuan Garden is small, but it strikes to be big because of its zigzag layout. Almost everyone has ever imagined living here for one day after visit, for leisure, for fresh air, for beautiful sceneries...
Tips of visiting Yuyuan Garden:
1. Walking distance: medium level, almost no challenging steps, but slippery stones paved above water pond and some small paths made it a little difficult to walk on, especially after rain;
2. Wheelchair service not available presently, and it's also hard to push wheelchair to make the whole garden, as the roads are uneven and sometimes slippery, thus requires more attention; No audio guiding machines for rent or sale;
3. Narrow paths all the way (though a little spacious courtyards in between), so when many visitors, usually feel crowded and pushy. It's always nice to let crowds pass first and leave behind to enjoy more with less interference around.
4. Ticket Price: 25RMB/pp;
Opening Time: 09:00a.m-17:00p.m
5. Watching your personal belongings all the way is highly suggested, especially in the shopping bazaar; shops and stalls in the bazaar sell so-so quality but nice and funny stuff. Bargaining is quite necessary.