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Garden of Master of the Nets  

Garden of Master of the Nets

It is the smallest of the Suzhou residential gardens and the most exquisite in design. The total area is only one sixth of that of Humble Administrator's Garden, but it is listed in the World Cultural Heritage. It is the most impressive because of its use of space that creates the illusion of an area that is much greater than its actual size. Sometimes the smallest package can contain the most magnificent gift. Wangshi Garden is a clear example of this and it has become the favorite of many people specializing in garden architecture. Even greater than the architectural achievement is the mood of tranquility and harmony that this humble garden embodies
Brief introduction

Wangshi Garden was first built in the Southern Song Dynasty and was the former site of "Wanjuan Hall" owned by Yangzhou intellectual Shi Zhengzhi who was a book collector and a Vice minister in the Song Dynasty. The former name of Wangshi Garden was "Yuyin (fisher living in seclusion)". During the reign of Qian Long, Song Zhongyuan, a retired official, rebuilt the garden. Facing Wangsi Lane (today's Kuojietou Lane), the garden was given a new name "Wangshi Garden" because Wangsi and Wangshi are homophonic. During the years of the 'Republic of China, warlord Zhuang Zuolin gave this garden to his teacher Zhuang Junjian and later Zhuang Junjian settled in the north of China. Wangshi Garden was rented to calligrapher Ye Gongchuo and traditional Chinese painting master Zhang Daqian and his brother. Wangshi Garden is divided into two sections: residential section and garden section. The residential garden can be also divided into three parts: the eastern part, the central part and the western part.

The 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 freedom. Varieties of building are laid out to meet the needs of reading, painting, viewing, resting, and sipping tea, holding small banquets among scholarly friends, capping verse, performing on a musical instruments, meditating on nature and cultivating one's mind.
There are three parts in the garden. The Small Hill and Osmanthus, Fragrance 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 garden appear more impressive than it is when seen alone.

The middle part of the garden has a pond covering about 440 sq.m., with a small bay to the northwest and a streamlet to the southeast giving the impression of infinity. A roofed walkway follows the contour and natural-looking mountains made from yellow stones piled up in layers, form hollows and caverns. 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 complete the scene. The Washing-My-Ribbon Pavilion over the water is the best viewing place in the garden. The northern part of the 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.

The western part is the inner garden which has an exquisite in design. Chinese peonies are planted here. The most famous house here is "Dianchunyi" where architectural style, furniture and palace lanterns have the distinction of being from the Ming Dynasty. It was used as the model for the Ming Hall Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 1979, which made Chinese garden known world-wide.