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Ouyuan Garden (Couple's Retreat Garden)

Ouyuan or Couple's Retreat Garden, Suzhou

Brief Introduction of Ouyuan Garden 
Situated on No.6 Cang Street, Ouyuan (Couple's Retreat Garden) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a key cultural relic under state protection. In the east was the ancient wall of Sunzhou city, which is destroyed and become a mound now. This garden despite its narrow width features an artificial hill made from rock brought from Taihu Lake. Different from other Suzhou garden, the layout of the Couple's Retreat Garden is designed purposely. For example, the Old House with Woven Curtains use the theory in Yiology, which means honesty. And in ancient China, “ou” means cultivating land by two persons, so that the garden's name implies that a couple retreat to the countryside and lead a peaceful life there. Also the name of the garden alludes to its two halves separated by a residential core in the middle. Not only it is a representation of Suzhou garden, but also it has its unique elements which is rooted in profound and broad Chinese culture.

History of Ouyuan Garden 
The Couple's Retreat Garden has a long history, which dated back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). In the very beginning when it was called She Yuann, which is the original form of the Eastern Garden, also called “Xiaoyulin”), it belonged to an officer called Lu Jin. Later its ownership was transferred to Guo Suzhou_Ouyuan_Garden1.jpgFengliang, a calligrapher. While it was destroyed by wars in the reign of Xianfeng. During the reign of Tongzhi (1856-1875), Shen Bincheng, a senior official from Huzhou, got the ownership of the garden and employed Gu yun to expand it by building the Western Garden in its current form. He also changed the name to the Couple's Retreat Garden which refers to the garden's two parts and alludes to a spouse. In 1884, Shen Bingcheng was appointed as the officer in another province and moved with his family. In 1895,he got ill and treated in the Suzhou,as well as died in the Couple's Retreat Garden .After Shen Bingcheng's death, Couple's Retreat Garden was abandoned and grew more dilapidated day by day. Later on, Zhao Shanchang,an educator, lived in it with other teachers. In 1939, Qian Mu, a famous historian,lived in the Eastern Garden with his family. In 1941, Liu Guojun, an industrialist in Changzhou, bought the abandoned Couple's Retreat Garden and reconstructed it. Unfortunately, the middle hall was destroyed by fire in 1950.And it was not opened to the public until 1980, and became a key cultural relic at the city-level.In November 2000, the Couple's Retreat Garden was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Main Highlights in Ouyuan (Couple's Retreat Garden)
The West garden
Centering in the Old House with Woven Curtains, the West garden is divided into three sections: east, south and north section. Small but delicate, the West garden was integrated with platforms, lakes, old trees and limestone mountains with caves in the south of the Old House. On the east side is Heshou Pavilion, plain and simple , established based on wall. The covered walkway here boasts exquisite latticed windows, which is hard to discover in another garden in Suzhou. And on the north side is a yard. In the north of the yard is a "L" shaped tower about three-room's wide used as a library, which is decorated with rocks, trees and flowers in front. The whole design implies a couple retreating to the forests on mountains, reading and working together, enjoying a peaceful and harmonious life. In a word, the West garden is composed of several structures grouped around a small grotto and a library annex.

The East Garden
Covering an area of 5.4 mu (0.89 acres),the East Garden is the prominent section of the complex,which boasts a grottoand pond ringed by a covered walkway that connects the structures. The rockery made of yellow stone in the East Garden are quite spectacular and famous in Suzhou garden. The main hill, sheer and cliffy, is in the east side and named “Liuyun Cave”. The small hill, smooth and gentle, is in the west side and named “Tao Island”. The main architecture of the Eastern Garden is a group of pavilions with double-eave roofs,which is arranged for reading books. Located in the middle of the main building, Chengqu Thatched Cottage is surrounded by the corridor. And the winding corridor stretches towards the south as wellas connects with Wangyue (looking at the moon) Pavilion and Wuai (my love) Pavilion. More than ten latticed windows on the corridor are of kinds of shape, which are really exquisite. In the Ming Dynasty, the circular door frame of the pavilion about 4 meters across and 3.5 meters high was carved with an ornamental openwork picture of “Three Friends in the Dead of Winter”(namely“ pine”, “bamboo” and “prunus mumm” instinct with life, which is an art treasure of this sort in the classical gardens of Suzhou.


The Middle Mansion
The middle mansion is located in the middle of the Couple's Retreat Garden, which also is flanked by the East and West Garden. On the middle line, from the east to the west, are a hallway, the hall placed sedan, a lobby and a balcony. The housing complex boasts four terraces in succession and is joined with the gardens by muti-storied buildings. The lobby here was destroyed by fire in 1950, and is reconstructed in 1993, which named“Zaijiu Hall”. The wing-rooms lie on the east and west sides of the mansion, which is the main residence of the owners. Facing the gate of the Couple's Retreat Garden is a large courtyard. And the tracery wall was located to the east of the courtyard. A circular door stands in the north of the garden.

Bus Route: take bus no.301, 305 and then get off at Dongyuan station

Opening Time: 07:30 to 17:00 
Admission Fee: CNY25 (Apr. 16 – Oct. 30)
                        CNY20 (Oct. 31 – Apr. 15)
Time for visit: 1-2 hours
Address: No.6, Cang Street, Gusu district, Suzhou, Jiangsu Province.

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