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Suzhou Canglang Pavilion


Canglang Pavilion (沧浪亭), or translated as the Great Wave Pavilion by, located in Sanyuanfang (三元坊), Suzhou, was built in Northern Song Dynasty (906-1127). It is the oldest classical garden in East China. Suzhou Canglang Pavilion, Lion Grove Garden, the Humble Administrator’s Garden and the Lingering Garden are called four gardens of Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties in history of China. It represents the artistic style of Song Dynasty, and was written into the list of world cultural heritage site in 2000, and approved as the national key cultural site in 2006.

An Artistic Picture Taken in Canglang Pavilion   The Profile of Su Shunqin

This is an official description of Great Wave Pavilion Garden by UNESCO – The Canglang Pavilion was built on the order of the Northern Song poet Su Sunqin in the early 11th century, on the site of an earlier, destroyed garden. During the Yuan and Ming dynasties (1279-1644) it became the Mystical Concealment Temple. Over succeeding centuries it was repeatedly restored, a tradition maintained by the People's Republic of China. It is reached across a zigzag stone bridge, when the mountains, covered with old trees and bamboo, suddenly become visible. The square pavilion stands on top of one of the mountains, inscribed with an appropriate text.

The Origin & History of Canglang Pavilion

Great Wave Pavilion was a private garden of Su Shunqin (苏舜钦, 1008-1048, a great poet of Northern Song Dynasty, born in Kaifeng, the capital of Northern Song Dynasty. Due to supporting the Qingli Reform organized by Fan Zhongyan, he was hated by the conservative officials, and then dismissed, and moved to live in Suzhou. Later on, he reassigned as the governor of Huzhou, but passed away before long. He was as famous as Mei Yaochen,梅尧臣. In literature of ancient China, they together were called “Mei Su”).

Canglang Pavilion originally was the private garden of Sun Chenyou, an officer under the administration of Qian Yuanliao (钱元璙), the Guangling King of Wuyue Kingdom. In Northern Song Dynasty, after Su Shunqin’s removal, this garden was bought by Su Shunqin. What he bought at the time was a deserted one, and through his reconstruction, the whole pavilion showed a refreshing look. Due to being deeply influenced by Qu Yuan(屈原, 340 -278 BC, the greatest poet and patriot during the Warring States Period), he was highly inspired by Qu Yuan’s famous quotation from his famous prose named Fisherman (渔父) in the Songs of the South (楚辞) - If the Canglang River is dirty, I will wash my muddy feet; If the Canglang River is clean, I will wash my ribbon (沧浪之水浊兮,可以濯我足; 沧浪之水清兮,可以濯吾缨). This verse alludes to an honest official who removes himself from politics rather than act in a corrupt manner. Su Shunqin chose this to express his feelings after his removal from office. This is the origin of the name. Su Shunqin called himself Canglangweng(沧浪翁, the Old of Canglang River), and then specially wrote a prose named Canglangting Ji(沧浪亭记, on Canglang Pavilion). What’s more, Ouyang Xiu was strongly invited to write a long poem titled Canglang Pavilion. After this gathering, Canglang Pavlion became quite famous.

After Su Shunqin died, the whole garden was gradually deserted. In the early period of Southern Song Dynasty, it became the mansion of Han Shizhong (韩世忠, a great patriotic general famous for fighting against the Jin troops’ southward intrusion). In early Qing Dynasty, it was rebuilt by Song Luo (宋荦), the governor of Suzhou, and today’s layout was fixed at the time, and the regular calligraphic board of Wen Zhengming was selected as well. In 1873, the garden was reconstructed again, but the traditional look shaped in Song Dynasty was not changed dramatically. The couplet of Canglang Pavilion is quite famous as well, and it was said that it was from the poems of Ouyang Xiu and Su Shunqin respectively. The words as below:

清风明月本无价 – the refreshing breeze and the bright moon are priceless
近水远山皆有情 – the water nearby and the mountains afar are both lovely.

The Highlights of Canglang Pavilion Garden

Unlike other gardens, Canglang Pavilion emphasizes the harmony between manmade buildings and the natural environment. Before entering the garden, you can see beautiful scenery composed of a green water pool that is surrounded by a growth of weeping willows.

In the garden you will see incredible man made rock formations that are divided into two parts. On the eastern side, the earth has been mixed with natural yellow stones and built in such a manner that it resembles a natural hill. On the western side, exquisite stones from the lake have been used to create another naturally appearing hill. Both of these rock formations have been planted with green trees and viridian bamboos that add to the beauty of the scene and create the sensation of walking in a primitive mountain forest. There are also winding corridors with pavilions that link the hills and pools together. As you walk along these corridors that follows a path alongside the unique stone formations and strategically planted ancient trees, it seems as if you were walking in a primitive forest. The architectures that have been built in the garden are simply and classically designed which present an architectural style of Qing Dynasty.

The Typical Tourist Attractions in Garden

Winding corridors throughout the garden link the scenic spots of the garden. On the walls of the corridor, there are 108 lattice windows of various designs through which you can enjoy the beauty of the pool outside and the hill in the center of the garden. The intricate patterns of the windows are interesting and enhance the beauty of the corridor.

Facing Water Veranda is a four-sided hall beside the water to the west of the corridor. When you are tired after long walk, you can sit and drink a cup of tea while enjoying the quiet and beautiful surroundings of the garden.

At the eastern end of the corridor, a square pavilion sits on a stone beside the pool. It is called Fishing Terrace which is a perfect place to sit and watch different varieties of fish swimming in the pool.

Crossing the corridor, you can climb up the man made rock formation along a gently winding path. Among a sea of green trees, a square antique Canglang Pavilion can be seen indistinctly. The beams of the pavilion are carved with intricate patterns of fairy children, flowers, birds, and animals. From inside the pavilion, you can see the beauty of the entire garden.

Mingdao Hall is the main building in the garden. In the hall are three rooms that were once used as a place for ancient scholars to study. Inside the hall, there are also rubbings of three stone tablets including the Astronomic Picture, Geographic Picture and Pingjiang Prefecture Picture which are the priceless treasures of Suzhou. In a setting of age old trees, the hall looks very solemn and venerable.

Fragrance House is to the west of the Mingdao Hall. When autumn comes, the house is filled with the delicate fragrance of the sweet-scented osmanthus that grows within the grounds of the garden. While sitting in Fragrance House, it is easy to enjoy both the beauty of the green rock formations and blue pools as well as the faint scent of osmanthus that adds to the joy and comfort of the scene.

Five-Hundred Famous Ancient Sages Hall is also an important building in the garden. The stone statues of 594 ancient sages of Suzhou are encased in the walls of the hall and form a large art gallery. The hall adds cultural atmosphere to the natural beauty of the whole garden.

In the southern end of the garden, a two-storey building called Mountain-Watching Building stands majestically in the garden. With its flying eaves and turned up corners, it is one of the most exquisite buildings in the garden. From inside this building, you can see the mountains around the garden as well as the beauty of the entire garden.

The Prose of Canglang Pavilion

The prose and poems themed with Canglang Pavilion started with Su Shunqin’s Canglangting Ji, and then the poem of Canglangting created by Ouyang Xiu. To Ming Dynasty, Gui Youguang(归有光, 1507 – 1571, a master of literature) also wrote a prose named Canglangting Ji.

  • Su Shunqin’s Canglangting Ji in Chinese >>>
  • Gui Youguang’s Canglangting Ji in Chinese >>>
  • Ouyang Xiu’s poem on Canglangting in Chinese >>>

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    Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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