The art of the traditional Chinese garden was popular among wealthy Chinese during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and nowhere is the classic beauty of these gardens more evident than in Suzhou, a city located 50 miles (81 kilometers) northwest of Shanghai.
Once the private retreats of families living in Suzhou, the gardens that survived the cities whirlwind modernization -- several of them making up a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Classical Gardens of Suzhou -- are now the city’s primary tourist attractions. While the city’s earliest gardens date back to the sixth century BC, their popularity reached its peak between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, when some 200 private gardens dotted the city.
If your time in Suzhou is limited, try not to miss the Fisherman’s Net Garden, Lion Grove Garden, Humble Administrator’s Garden and Lingering Garden. Each garden charges a separate entrance fee, and many offer free tours, though often only in Mandarin.