Suzhou

Suzhou is famed for its beautiful gardens and traditional waterside architecture. The Classical Gardens of Suzhou were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.

In its many beautiful gardens and courtyard parks, Suzhou's ancient heritage has been preserved. This ambitious city, however, is not going to trade upon its past in order to meet the future. A wander off the beaten path and into some of the old neighborhoods can be quite a treat, but their seediness and crowded conditions provide a stark contrast to the endless billboards at the edge of the city advertising Orange County like suburban developments. Suzhou is a bustling city, though you can still see traces of a very old lifestyle centered around the canals.

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The Humble Administrator's Garden said to cost a boatload of silver and taken sixteen years to build. Included in the tour is a "Chinese marriage", a look at carved tree roots, followed by a boat ride through the garden canals. The incredible collection of bonsai trees at the end of the garden furthest from the main entrance is worth a trip all by itself.

The Garden of the Master of the Nets. Originally created in 1140, and recreated in 1770 by the bureaucrat Song Zongyuan. The enclosed complex of house and garden is one of the smallest, most beautiful, and most perfectly proportioned in Suzhou. Don't let the small size deceive you, this garden has enough to occupy you for half a day or more. On certain evenings there are demonstrations of many traditional performing art.