Master of the Nets Garden

The country of China is known for its rich history, beautiful architecture, and stunning gardens. Among the finest Chinese gardens ever designed is the Master of the Nets Garden, located in the city of Suzhou. A recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Master of the Nets Garden allows visitors to step back in time nearly one thousand years to enjoy a unique blend of organic and inorganic elements that come together to create this lasting masterpiece.

The Garden’s Creation

The Master of the Nets Garden was constructed in the year 1140 by Shi Zhengzhi, who served as the Deputy Civil Service Minister for the Southern Song Dynasty government. Originally called Ten Thousand Volume Hall, Shi Zhengzhi’s garden design fell into disarray following his death and its subsequent transferal among numerous owners. In 1785, a retired Qing Dynasty government official named Song Zongyuan sought to restore the garden to its former glory. During this process, the garden underwent a significant redesign process, including the addition of several buildings. Despite these changes, Song Zongyuan aimed to retain the garden’s original spirit. He renamed the transformed masterpiece the Master of the Nets Garden, in reference to the simple fisherman’s life revered in the philosophical writings loved by its original creator, Shi Zhengzhi.

The Garden’s Features

Today, the Master of the Nets Garden features three sections. Throughout the gardens, the placement of plants and rocks serves to represent the four main seasons and their coexistence in natural harmony. The main garden hosts a large pond surrounded by pathways and buildings, including the Pavilion for the Advent of the Moon and Wind and the Ribbon Washing Pavilion. A smaller inner garden, which covers only 660 square feet, is the inspiration for the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Ming Hall Garden. The garden’s residential section includes four main halls, three courtyards, and a tower, all laid out in a linear sequence.

This article is part of our ongoing blog series, The Most Spectacular Gardens in the World.

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