The most famous classical garden in Shanghai is the Yuyuan Garden, which is also known as the Yu Garden. Built in the period of the Ming Dynasty, for more than 400 years, it has been considered one of the best and most beautiful gardens in China. Yuyuan is located in the center of the Old City in Shanghai, south of the area known as Bund.
The builder was Pan Yunduan, a military figure in the Ming Dynasty, who created it for his family as a place where they could rest and enjoy the magnificent scenery. Throughout the centuries many changes have been made, and the last restoration was made in the middle of the 20th century by Liangshu Han who recreated it in its original state.
It is a five-acre garden, and in its small space, it contains six main areas which are the Yuhua Hall, the Inner Garden, Sansui Hall, Dianchun Hall, Wanhua Chamber, and Juijing Hall. Each one of these areas has different scenery made with little ponds with Koi fish in them, a variety of different trees, amazing rockeries, and small bridges.
What makes Yuyuan even more beautiful are the tiny details like small sculptures made of clay, various carvings, paintings of famous Chinese artists, and inscriptions on some of the walls of the halls. Five years after the last restoration, it was open to the public, and many visitors come to enjoy the different scenery in the area.
At the entrance, guests can see the Great Rockery which stands nearly 50 feet tall and climb to the top for a better view of the garden. It was created by one of the most celebrated rockery artists from the Ming dynasty, Zhang Nanyang. This masterpiece is considered to be the largest and oldest in the region of the Yangtze River.
The rockery offers excellent views of Cuixiu Hall surrounded by various colorful flowers, and many trees. On this spot there are also curio shops filled with souvenirs, postcards, hand-made bracelets and other items. Another highlight of the garden is the Exquisite Jade Rock. The 10-foot-tall rock has 72 natural holes, and it is a popular sight for visitors because when an incense stick is burned below the rock, the smoke is emitted from all the holes.
If water is poured over the top of the rock, it flows from every hole and looks like a natural fountain. The main construction in Yuyuan is the Sansui Hall which means lucky and propitious in Chinese. Initially built as a house for entertaining guests, after a century it became a place for special occasions and ceremonies. It is the largest structure in the gardens and features five rooms and is 30 feet high.
Another hall in the gardens is the Dianchun Hall, which was once the meeting-place of a rebel group known as Xiaodao Hui which means Small Sword Society. Inside, there is a small museum with artifacts from the time when they were fighting against the Qing Dynasty’s government. The most attractive part in Yuyuan is the Inner Garden, which is rich with trees, pavilions, ponds, and flowers.
At first, it was built as a separate property but was eventually merged with the garden in the 19th century. The two marks in the garden are the Zigzag Bridge made of granite and the tea house known as Mid-lake Pavilion. Next to the garden is the Yuyuan Bazaar.
It has many small streets with restaurants, different shops, and tea houses. Every year, there are various exhibitions in Yuyuan of calligraphy, unique stones (the display is known as Stone City), and flowers. It is a must-see destination, especially in spring when everything all the flowers are blooming.