Canals and Gardens

Historically the area around Suzhou and Hangzhou are reputedly among the most beautiful in China. China’s heaven on earth in one of the old proverbs that Cloud told us about today. We bid a rainy farewell to Shanghai and headed into south China.

Tongli is a “water town” – a village of canals. Think of Amsterdam or Venice but on a very small scale. Narrow canals, stone arches, some neat vending, as well as some kitsch. The water town here is fed by the water from the Grand Canal, which was dug over 12 years under the Sui Dynasty, and extends 1400 miles from Beijing to Hangzhou! Why had I never heard of this canal before? There is huge inland water commerce in this part of China as a result of this large and pretty canal. Many things are happening here, including fairly large scale fish farming – lots of small fish weirs stocked up next to one another all along the edges of the canals and in small inland ponds.

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This part of China is known for it’s beautiful gardens. A garden here is a large walled structure with a series of rooms, some with floors and roofs, others paved and open aired, where a family would contemplate or scheme. Each garden includes elements of Earth, Wood, Stone and Water. The stonework and artistic elements are designed to instill peacefulness and meditation. In the Garden of Seclusion and Meditation, I first noticed the fabulous, but simple stonework on the floors and walkways. I plan to try to replicate these in my new herb garden.

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After lunch at a traditional tea house, we headed further south to Suzhou and another garden. This “smaller” garden was built by the Master of the Nets. I think this one was even more wonderful than the garden in Tongli.

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