Introducing Master-of-Nets Garden
Originally built in South Song Dynasty (1174~1189), the Master-of-Nets Garden in Suzhou is one of the finest gardens in China. The garden demonstrates Chinese garden designers’ adept skills for synthesizing art, nature, and architecture to create unique metaphysical masterpieces.
Master-of-Nets Garden Fast Facts
• Chinese Name: Wangshiyuan 网师园
• Best Time to Visit: April to October
• Recommended Visiting Hours: About 1 to 2 hours
• Things to Do: Photography, Architecture, History and Culture
• Opening Hours: 07:30-17:30 (Apr 16 to Oct 30); 07:30-17:00 (Oct 31 to Apr 15); 19:30-22:00 (Apr to Oct)
• Entrance Fee: ¥40 (Apr, May, July, Aug, Sep, Oct); ¥30 (Jan, Feb, Mar, June, Nov, Dec); ¥100 for Night Garden (Apr to Oct)
• Address: No. 11 Kuojiatou Lane, Gusu District, Suzhou, Jiangsu Province
What to expect at Master-of-Nets Garden
The Master-of-Nets Garden covers 5,400 sq.m. and is divided into two parts: the eastern house and the western garden. Half enclosed by a screen wall with a row of iron rings for tethering horses, and two alleyway side entrances, the front door faces south, having a pair of var. Pendular in front, and hairpin-like door ornaments above, and two huge blocks of stone carved in the shape of drums kept fast with the hands, placed one by its left side and another by its right side. This type of front door showing owner’s rank at the court has become very rare now.
On a north-south axis there are four successive buildings separated by garden courts, namely the front door hall, the sedan-chair hall, the grand reception hall and the two-storeyed tower. Constructed in accordance with the strict regulations of feudalism, they are magnificent buildings with extraordinary furnishing and interior decoration. In front of the grand reception hall is a door with richly carved earthen ornamentation. The two-storeyed tower at rear is the place where the family used to stay, and the hall in front is chiefly for reception, public celebrations and ceremonial observances. Every hall has a door or walk-way leading to the Master-of-Nets Garden. It is a typical example of combining living quarters with a landscape garden in Suzhou.
The Master-of-Nets Garden lies to the northwest of the house, making up four fifth of the total area. Quite different from the normal architecture in the east, the garden architecture enjoys a considerable degree of free. Varieties of building are laid out to meet the needs of reading, painting, viewing, resting, sipping tea, holding small banquet among scholarly friends, capping verse, performing on a musical instrument, meditating on nature and cultivating one’s mind. Roughly speaking, there are three parts in the garden. The Small Hill and Osmanthus, Fragrancy Pavilion, the Daohe House and the Music Room constitute the middle distance of the confined southern part of the garden. The technique of emancipation by suppression and contrasting light with shade are remarkably employed to make the middle part of the Master-of-Nets Garden appear more impressive that it is when seen alone.
The middle part of the Master-of-Nets Garden has a pond in the center covering about 440 sq.m. with a small bay to the northwest and a streamlet to the southeast giving the impression of infinity. It is curved round by a roofed walkway, natural-looking mountains made from yellow stones piled up in layers forming hollows and caverns within, a tiny arch bridge called “the Leading to Quietude”, and a number of delicate and well-proportioned pavilions, namely the Washing-My-Ribbon Pavilion over the water, the Moon Comes with Breeze Pavilion, the Prunus Mume Pavilion and the Duck-Shooting Veranda. The Washing-My-Ribbon Pavilion over the water is the best viewing place of the garden. The idea comes from a fisherman’s song in the works of Mencius, saying: If the water of the Surging Wave River is clean, I wash the ribbon of my hat; if the water of the Surging Wave River is dirty, I wash my feet. The same is true to the name of the garden – Master-of -Nets.
The northern part of the Master-of-Nets Garden features studies and studios with beautiful garden courts. Some noteworthy places include the Peony Study. the Watching Pines and Appreciating Paintings Studio, the Meditation Study, the Five Peaks Library and the Cloud Stairway Room. With white-washed walls as their backdrop, stones bamboo, Prunus mumm and Musa basjoo partly concealed by windows and buildings have incredibly come to form numerous picturesque scenes.
In sum, there are scenes beyond scenes, and gardens within the garden. Many buildings are perfectly well-spaced instead of being crammed. A small area of water and stone is made to seem large. Based on illusion, the garden is full of change, capturing the effect of boundlessness, and achieving a unity of part and whole. The Master-of-Nets Garden serves to illustrate how the few surpasses the many and the small exceeds the large.
Today the Master-of-Nets Garden has 22 buildings, 2 doors with richly carved earthen ornamentation, 15 plate aux, 9 parallel couplets,15 brick and stone carvings, 32 stelae, and 8 rare species of old trees, namely Sabina Chincherinchee, Pinus bungeana, etc. falling into 6 catalogues.
How to get to Master-of-Nets Garden
• Take bus No. 47, 55, 529, or Tourist Line 2 and get off at Wangshiyuan Station.
• Take bus No. 204, 501 or 511 and get off at Wangshiyuan Bei staion.
Additional travel advice on Master-of-Nets Garden
• From April to Middle October, a series of traditional art performances will be held at Night Garden.
• Please book the entrance ticket via Suzhou Tourism Official Account on WeChat or official website (https://www.szylly.com) with your passport details.
• Keep your passport on you to claim the ticket.