This rock garden was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in the year 2000. It is one of 9 Classical Gardens of Suzhou on the UNESCO list. It has the reputation of being the funnest garden in Suzhou because there is a complex maze people get lost in. UNESCO considered the 9 gardens in Suzhou to be masterpieces of Classical Chinese-style gardens.
Bus No. 202 (former Bus No.2), Bus No. 204 (former Bus No. 4), No. 23, No. 549 (former Bus No. 29) and several others go there. Tourism Bus No. 5 goes there too.
Adjacent to the Humble Administrator Garden, Lion Grove Garden is the only garden having survived from the end of the Yuan Dynasty to the present day. The idea came from Buddhism.
The well-known Yuan artist Zi Zan (Yunlin) painted a scroll of the Lion Grove Garden. Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong visited it several times and made replicas of the garden at the Yuan Ming Garden and the Imperial Mountain Resort respectively.
Compactly yet harmoniously spaced, The Lion Grove Garden, also called the Kingdom of Rockeries, is noted for its labyrinthine man-made limestone mountains with winding pathways and caverns as well as pavilions, terraces and towers. A long roofed walkway going round the garden leads to places of quietude. In 2000 it was inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO. In 2003 it was listed as the National Tourist Attraction of Grade AAAA.
The man-made mountains of Lion Grove Garden are not very high but awe-inspiring, possessing numerous winding caverns. Large areas of water are not deep but immense, curving round the mountains. The waterfalls are concealed by trees and flowers. Rare species of old trees are impressive. The pavilions, halls and towers are celebrated for their exquisite workmanship. No wonder it is regarded as one of the four most famous gardens of Suzhou.
Lion Grove Garden was built about 1342 on the site of a garden that was destroyed centuries earlier. The Northern Song Dynasty poet named Su Sunqin ordered the Canglang Pavilion to be built in the place of the destroyed garden in the early 11th century. The present rock garden around it was partly built in 1342 during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) by a monk named Tianru and a group of Zen Buddhist disciples.
In 1589 of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Monk Mingxing asked for donations to rebuild the garden. Then Huang Xingzu, the governor of Hengzhou, bought the garden and renamed it She Garden. His son named Huang Xi repaired and decorated the garden and named it Five-Pine Garden in 1771.
It is said that the Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty took delight in True Delight Pavilion (Zhenquting) that is the central pavilion. The Emperor Qianlong was considered to be one of the greatest emperors of the past 500 years. It is said that he visited the gardens six times; and in 1765, he wrote the pavilion's plaque.
The garden was purchased by the Bei family in 1917. The family finished restoring it in 1926. Then the government of the People's Republic of China took control of the garden and developed it as a park. It was opened to the public in 1954.
In the year 2000, the UNESCO World Heritage List committee decided to include this property among earlier entrants of its Suzhou classical garden list. They wrote that the classical gardens of Suzhou are "masterpieces of Chinese landscape garden design in which art, nature, and ideas are integrated perfectly to create ensembles of great beauty and peaceful harmony."
While in the Lion Grove Garden, you can see the many buildings near the pond and a zig-zagging bridge that crosses it. You can visit Suzhou Folk Custom Museum that is next to it at the same time. Another garden on the UNESCO World Heritage List called the Humble Administrator's Garden is nearby.
The Humble Administrator's Garden is southwards about one hundred meters. It is said the garden area was the site of the residence of Suzhou's powerful people since the 2nd century AD. The Ming Imperial Inspector Wang Xianchen built the complex in 1509 when he retired from his position of power and returned to his native city.
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