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Shanghai Yuyuan Garden Introduction


shanghai yuyuan garden
Shanghai Yuyuan Garden

Shanghai as a city just has a history of less than 100 years (exactly shanghai became a city on March. 21, 1927). Therefore in the mind of the public, Shanghai is too young to have a history like America. This is also the reason why many Chinese travel experts summarize Chinese travel destinations like this: to learn the modern history of China, Shanghai is the best display window; to learn the 5000 years’ history of China, Xian is the best access; and to learn the 500 years’ history of China, Beijing is the best destination. This is partially advisable, but the precondition is that Shanghai became a city after being a port. How about Shanghai before being forced to open to the western world? Actually, in ancient China, exactly before the outbreak of the opium war, Shanghai was called Songjiang(松江), and also an important regional center of East China, exactly Jiangnan today we call widely. The architectural style of old Shanghai features the classical garden-style building, and Yuyuan garden(豫园) is the typical representative in Shanghai.

Yuyuan Garden is one of the quintessential representatives of Jiangnan Garden. Originally, Yuyuan garden was built in 1559 by Pan Yunduan(潘允端), a local governor of Sichuan province in Ming Dynasty, to serve his father who was Pan En (潘恩), a famous minister during the reign of Emperor Jiajing in Ming Dynasty. Yu(豫) in Chinese language is an auspicious character, and means comfort, satisfaction and pleasure, and it also the abbreviation of Henan province. To be the name of the garden was to show the filial love of making parents and the elder happy and pleasant.

shanghai yuyuan garden
Shanghai Yuyuan Garden

Located in the northwest side of old Shanghai, Yuyuan garden is surrounded by Fuyou Road(福佑路), Anren Street(安仁街), Old City God Temple(老城隍庙) and Yuyuan Business City(豫园商城). Yuyuan garden has the unique garden design, and the special pavilions and towers as well as the impressive rockery bring this garden the reputation of the No.1 Garden of Jiangnan for its Uniqueness and Splendor. Currently, it has more than 400 years of history. Originally as the private garden of Pan family, the whole garden is comprised of Hui Hall, Giant Rockery, Iron Lion, Kuai Tower, Deyue Tower, Yulinglong, Jiyu Waterside Corridor, Tingtao Pavilion, Hanbi Tower and Ancient Stage and so on. In total, there are more than 40 ancient architectural sites. Yuyuan Garden is the show of architectural style of Ming and Qing Dynasties in southeast China.

In late Qing Dynasty, Xiaodaohui Insurgency(The Riot of Small Swords Society) broke out, and the Dianchun Hall(点春堂, Pointing Spring Hall) was set as the command post of northern city. Yuyuan experienced destructions and reconstructions for many times. After liberation, Yuyuan garden was largely reconstructed, and majority of the scenes and sites were restored. The whole garden scenic area can be divided into four parts. Moreover, there are also hundreds of calligraphic tablets, stele inscriptions and other artistic masterpieces preserved in gardens. In 1959, Yuyuan garden was ranked the unit of municipal cultural relic protection, and in 1961 was opened to the public. In 1982, Yuyuan garden was listed as the cultural relic under the national protection. There are also the city god temple, Shanghai Old Hotel, Nanxiang Steamed Bread Shop and business streets close to Yuyuan garden.

The History of Yuyuan Garden

As mentioned above, the garden owner was Pan Yunduan. And in 1559, after he failed in examination of the ministry of rituals, he had the idea of building a garden. Later, Pan Yunduan was assigned to be an official of other place, and he did not have sufficient time to operate the garden construction. In 1577, he resigned from Sichuan and returned to Shanghai, since then, he had much time to operate the garden construction. He employed Zhang Nanyang(张南阳), a famous garden designer at the time, to design the garden and build the rockery. The whole garden was designed to be quite unique and classic. In late period of Ming Dynasty, it was the peak time of littérateurs to construct the gardens. There were hundreds of private gardens in Shanghai with different sizes. But there was only the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai that could be the counterpart of Suzhou Humble Administrator Garden(拙政园) and Yanshan Garden(弇山园) of Taicang(太仓).

Shanghai Yuyuan Garden
The View of Shanghai Yuyuan Garden

Initially, building this garden was for Pan Yunduan’s parents. But as the time went, Pan En, Pan Yunduan’s father, died when the garden was built completely. And the whole garden became his private garden for leisure and reclusive life. Pan Yunduan used to host the banquets, hold the sacrificing ceremonies, playing with crickets, playing the kites, writing the playscripts and exchanging the antiques and artistic masterpieces. The monks, nuns, fortunetellers, prostitutes and other different walks of life were all available in the garden. Owing to the long-term luxurious life and the large expenditure of building the garden, Pan Family was declined. Pan Yunduan had to sell the farmlands and antiques to maintain his life. After his death, the garden was deserted. In later period of Ming Dynasty, the Yuyuan garden was possessed by Zhang Zhaolin(张肇林, the husband of Pan Yunduan’s granddaughter ) for a long time. In early period of Qing Dynasty, The Yuyuan Garden was owned by different people in different phases. In the early reign of Emperor Kangxi, some local celebrated gentlemen changed some halls of Yuyuan Garden to be Qinghe Academy(清和书院, Purity-Harmony Academy), but the whole reconstruction of academy was not completed, because the main operator named Zhang Shengqu(张升衢)as the governor of Songjiang was demoted.

shanghai yuyuan garden
Shanghai Yuyuan Garden

> In 1709, the local gentlemen of Shanghai for meeting the needs of the public movement bought a part of the land on the east side of Shanghai City God Temple, which is today’s East Garden, anciently called Lingyuan(灵苑). In 1760, some local rich merchants donated much to restore the resort of gardens. After more than 20 years, another famous part of the garden was built, and it was called West Garden. The reconstructed West Garden was not the private garden any more but the gathering place of local people. But the scale and layout was the original. During the opium war, Yuyuan garden was broken. In 1842, the British troops directly entered the old city of Shanghai and stationed in Yuyuan garden and City God Temple, and their headquarters was at Huxinting, Lake-Center Pavilion.

In 1855, the Insurgency of Small Swords Society was suppressed successfully, and troops of Qing government stationed in Yuyuan Garden. But the classical sites like Xiangxue Hall, Dianchun Hall, Guihua Hall, Deyue Tower, Huashen Pavilion and Lotus Hall were all destroyed. During the eastern expedition of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, the Qing Government requested the Foreign Gun Brigade to fight against the insurgents. Yuyuan secondly acted as the military camp. During the reign of Emperors Jiaqing and Daoguang, the business of Shanghai got a fast development. Some societies of the same trade of the business were set in Yuyuan garden. The Yuyuan garden became the places for worshipping the god, discussing, hosting the party and traveling. And in the garden, the tea houses and restaurants largely appeared. The place on the southwest side of Lotus Pool also became some characteristic business market; the local artists’ performances, the fortunetelling, selling the sugars and playing the raree shows were all available over there.

shanghai yuyuan garden
Shanghai Yuyuan Garden

By 1875, there had been the associations of the bean and rice industry, sugar industry and cloth industry, and even some associations also opened the schools. During the Republic of China, the Yuyuan garden was divided into two parts by a road, which today is called Yuyuan Road. And the buildings of the garden like Ninghui Pavilion, Qingfeng Hall, Lvbo Corridor and Haole House all became the shops, restaurants and tea houses. During Songhu Battle, or the Battle of Shanghai, Xiangxue Hall was burnt down. A lot of the buildings were destroyed. Fortunately, the most important buildings like Dianchun Hall, Sanhui Hall, Giant Rockery and some pavilions and trees were well preserved.

After 1949, Yuyuan got the large-scale reconstruction and resurfacing except the destruction of Yuyuan Garden during The Cultural Revolution, and a lot of buildings were rebuilt and extended. Besides, the fame of Yuyuan gaden also spread worldwide. A lot of international giants like Queen Elizabeth II visited Yuyuan Garden.

The Major Attractions of Yuyuan Garden

Currently, Yuyuan garden is comprised of three parts: the east part, the middle part and the west part. The east part includes the famous sites like Sanhui Hall, Yangshan Hall, Juanyu Tower, Giant Rockery, Yixiu Pavilion, Wangjiang Pavilion, Iron Lion of Yuan Dynasty, Cuixiu Hall, Yifang, Yule Corridor, Fu Corrdior, Liangyi Pavilion, Dianchun Hall, Hexu Hall. The east part includes Yuhua Hall, Jiyushuilang, Jiyu Peak, Huijing Tower and Jiushi Pavilion. The middle includes Zhi Pavilion, Huanying Rockery and Library. The internal site includes Jingguan Hall, Guantao Tower, Huanyun Tower, Yanqing Tower, Songcui Pavilion, Ship Hall, Jiulong Pool and Ancient Stage. The best time of appreciating the beauty of Yuyuan garden is on the evening of the Lantern Festival.


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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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