A garden bordered by a beautiful lake, landscaped by rocks and pavilions for all seasons and graced by the presence of historical beauty, summarizes Li Yuan (Li Garden) in Wuxi.
Marked as a National AAAA tourist spot(a locally developed rating system by China), Li Yuan is one of the most popular tourist spot for the breathtaking scenery of the lake in the country, not to mention the beautifully landscaped man-made garden.
Located in southwest Wuxi, Li Yuan is the former residence of Fan Li, who was a senior official in the state of Yue and helped King Gou Jian, whom he served, in a battle against the State of Wu, in which they declared victory. Shortly after winning the battle, Fan Li retired and led a peaceful life with Xi Shi, one of the prominent four beauties in the country.
It was said that he enjoyed taking a cruise on a boat with Xi Shi on the Lake Wuli, and that he was enchanted with the beauty of the lake that he decided to build his home beside it.
Renaming the Lake Wuli after himself, Lake Li lined the gardens of Li's home which, on its own is decorated with rock mountains and landscapes; mostly man made.
Li Yuan is well-preserved, maintaining most of its former glory which can be observed in the grand hall, the corridors, the pavilions, walls, and the man-made rocky hills and paths dotting the entire garden.
Most of the walls were graced by the writings and works of famous scholars such as Su Dongpo and Mifu.
Walking through the garden is a delightful experience as one takes in the beautifully landscaped garden and the trees arching towards each other, formation of rocks in the shapes of small hills, mountains (man-made) and walking paths.
There are also various pavilions, ponds, bridges and corridors; all typical of a Chinese or Oriental inspired design found in the garden.
According to our tour guide, the rocks lining the garden were designed in such a way that there were holes in them which allowed wind to pass through them.
The holes in the rock were meant to drive the wind through them during summer; to cool down the temperature like what modern air-conditioning systems would do. In fact, the draft that passed through the holes do create a soft howl and the sound emanates through the halls and corridors.
With a large area of 9.5 square kilometres encompassing the garden which borders the lake, it is no surprise that most of Li Yuan is composed of water; man-made pond and part of Li lake flowing through the garden.
Some of the landmarks in Li Yuan:
Lined with willows and peach trees, this is a popular sight particularly during the spring season when they are in bloom. In winter, as you can see, most of the leaves have withered.
An old longevity/money tree, or so the legend has it, as according to the tour guide.
This tree was believed to bring luck, wealth and longevity to people who shook it, and at the same time, one has to stand within the two circles carved on the pavement where one symbolizes wealth and the other longevity.
However, the tree is currently being supported by wooden sticks to hold it in position as it is continuously shaken by the groups of visitors every year.
The Thousand step corridor/hall
The corridor is an approximately 300m walkway with one of the side facing the breathtaking view of the lake and the other is lined with a wall with inscriptions and works of calligraphy by the famous scholars in the ancient dynasties of Song and Ming; Su Dongpo, Mifu, and Wang Yangming.
The beautiful view of the lake from the corridor
A view of the Ferris Wheel, which is another local attraction. The full cycle on the wheel takes approximately 18 minutes.
Most of the rocks used in the garden here are from the Lake Li
The Four Season Pavilions
These are the main landmarks inside the garden; and each pavilion was built to signify one of the season and there are flowers planted beside the pavilion to identify the season the pavilion represented. For Spring, plum is planted; for Summer, it is oleander, osmanthus for autumn and wintersweet is for the winter pavilion.
The Spring Autumn pavilion is the most famous pavilion as this is the place where Fan Li was reputed to spend most of his time together with Xi Shi, and one is said to be able to enjoy the amazing view of the lake and feel the sweetness of their romance at that time.
A statue of Fan Li was found inside the pavilion
Xi Shi Garden
There is a part of the garden where the statue of one of China's most stunning beauties and also the lady owner of the place; Xi Shi, is erected in her honor.
A beautiful place and undoubtedly a top tourist spot in the province and it is not hard to wonder why, with the exquisite blend of nature and architecture in the forms of the rocks, corridors, pavilions and the lake.
Although Spring is the best time to visit this place, I can say that visitors will still be in awe of the wonders lying within the garden even in winter.