September 26th, 2013


Suzhou, the Humble Administrator's Garden, and the Last Dinner in Shanghai - June 1, 2013

Suzhou is just West of and a little north of Shanghai, and it's on the Grand Canal, an enormous canal that was built all the way from Beijing, and was used by an emperor or another to do the Grand Inspection, a euphemism for Tax Collection. It's beautiful, though thinking about the fact that it was all dug by hand with what was essentially slave labor, it isn't that surprising that it was one of the reasons why that particular Dynasty didn't last more than a few years.

The city is also the site for one of the largest and oldest private gardens now owned by the Government. The Humble Administrator's Garden is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was originally built in the Shaoxing period (1131-1162) of the Southern Song Dynasty, but in 1513 CE Wang Xiancheng, who was an Imperial Envoy and a poet of the Ming Dynasty, took it over and created a garden when he was retired by the Emperor from Imperial life. In Chinese, the name of the garden was The Stupid Administrator's Garden, given in a fit of bitterness at being discarded by the Emperor. The gentler name was given through a well-meaning translation. I kind of like the original better.

It was an extra trip out to Suzhou, and we paid a fee to do it in addition to the rest of the tour. The only alternative was to go shopping in Shanghai or lie in my bed in the hotel. I was so sick at this point I couldn't really speak, but I'd been looking forward to this for much of the trip, ever since I found out that the Humble Administrator's Garden was the one the Portland garden was modeled against. I really wanted to see the original, and so we went.

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