Shaoxing #1: Shen's Garden

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Asia » China » Zhejiang » Shaoxing
October 9th 2017
Published: July 12th 2018
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The train to Shaoxing from Shanghai took about an hour. There was zero English in the station, but I managed to find the bus stop and, after messaging a friend, found out which bus would take me to the city centre. The high speed trains in China are great, but why do they have to build the stations so far out? It was a really hot day and I was sweating as I stood in the sun waiting for the bus. I think the bus took about 40 minutes to get down town. I just got off randomly and walked for about another 15-20 minutes to reach my hostel. The main street was quite nice, quite traditionally Chinese, then I turned down a side street to had towards my hostel. That street was a bit sketch, there were definitely a few brothels on the street. I came to the end of the street and found my hostel just across the way. After checking in and a quick coffee, I headed out to explore.

I didn't end up getting very far as there was a Starbucks really close by and since I'd had no breakfast or lunch, I was starving. I had another coffee and a sandwich and then set off again to explore. I hadn't heard of Shaoxing before coming to China, but someone had told me it was a nice place to visit and it is pretty close to where I live. So I did some research and found out that it is a traditional old style town with lots of pretty architecture and famous scholars lived there along time ago. My hostel's location was perfect as I was staying right by the edge of the old town. The old town is a pedestrianised area, which is well preserved and really pretty. I took a walk through it, but since it was Monday, not everything was open. Lots of tourist places in China are closed on Mondays. This had a lovely effect making the street pretty quiet. At the end of the street I saw a sign pointing in the direction of Shen's Garden. It was only a three hundred or so metre walk, so I decided to head there. I made the decision to explore the garden today and to do the main street tomorrow, when all the places on it would be open. I really liked the style of the streets with the little canals next to them. I love this traditional Chinese style and the place reminded me a little of Suzhou. I had zero expectations of Shen's Garden and was pleasantly surprised. From the outside the garden didn't loo too big and after paying my entrance fee of 40 RMB, I headed in. Shen's Garden was the private garden of a wealthy Shaoxing businessman constructed during the Southern Song period of the Song Dynasty. The garden became famous due to a chance encounter by the famous Song Dynasty poet, Lu You and his former wife, Tangwan.

There were lots of hearts and bells hanging up near the entrance way that people had written their wishes on. Those were really cute, and it's at times like this, when I wished I could understand Chinese to know what they said. I was in the first section of the garden, which I think is the Shenshi Section. A bit further along there was a pool of the ‘Song Dynasty', so I sat in the shade of the pavilion next to it and watched the ducks swimming about. This pool isn't the original; it was reconstructed in 1988. Then I headed to the back of the pool, where there was an old well. I decoded to head left as there was an entrance way in the wall and I was intrigued by what would be through there. I though it would probably be the exit, but I wanted to check just in case. I was glad I did, as at first when I walked through the door way there was nothing, just a pretty bare corridor, but there was another doorway across the way and that led to a whole other garden. This was the East Garden or the ‘Lover Garden' as the sign explained to me that this garden absorbs the essence of the art of the landscape architecture of Jiangnan Garden for cleverly unfolding subtle changes of landscape composition in limited space. By looking at the map, the garden didn't seem too small and it looked like there was a lot to see there, so I headed inside. I enjoyed walking around this garden, there were a few different points of interest. The rather large pond with mountain rocks in it really reminded me of one of the gardens I had visited in Suzhou. I also really liked the little walkways as they were very photogenic, as were the curved doorways lined with bamboo. After taking a look around this garden, I headed back to the main garden and then through to the LU You Memorial Hall at the back. The garden at the back of the memorial hall was really pretty, I don't know what it is was about it, but to me it just looked really nice. Then I headed to the garden at the front of the memorial hall, which contained some interesting sculptures. The one of the man I presumed to be Lu You, and the other was entitled 'Iron Horse and Glacial River'. This sculpture's background depicts a fallen nation and the horse rearing its head and neighing northwards reflects Lu You's concerns for his country and people as well as his patriotism.

While I wasn't intending to really visit any of the sites on the main street it was still pretty early, so I decided to pop into some of the smaller, free ones. I headed into the Taimen (housing complex) of the Zhou family. It had been built during the Qing Dynasty and Lu Xun, (the town's most famous son) had been born here on 25th Spetember 1881. Most of the complex has been reconstructed when it was sold to the neighbouring Zhu family in 1918, but the former residence of Lu Xun was left in tact. The housing complex was also rebuilt in 2003 according to the Zhou family's recollections of the place. The Taimen was really nice to wander around and I enjoyed looking in the different rooms and seeing how people lived back in the day. At the back of the house, there is a garden named Baicao, which means 100 Plant Garden. That was pretty to waner around as was another small garden adjecent to it. From there, I made my way back to the hostel. I loved seeing the tall, modern building in the background as they were so different to the traditional, old style buildings.

After resting up for a bit, I decided to head back out and see what Shaoxing was like at night. I decided to walk up the main street that I had walked down earlier in the day, as I felt it would have more life to it than the old town. The streets were pretty quiet. For a country with so many people China can feel really quiet and empty at times. The pavement was also a mess as they were digging it up and relaying it in some sections, meaning pedestrian had to walk on the road, at least the traffic wasn't too bad. I headed to Dashan Pagoda, which I had seen earlier in the day and now, at night, it was lit up beautifully. I was going to take a walk through the park that surrouns the pagoda, but after a short wander, it didn't seem to have much to look at and since i was hungry, I decided to head back and find something to eat. I stopped at a convenience store to get some food for dinner, nothing exciting just a sandwich and crisps, which I ate in the common area back at the hostel. I returned to my room and met my roommates. The dorm room was a bit rustic and as I was sorting out my things, I saw a pretty big spider on the wall. Its legs were thick and its colouring made it look more like a crab. I was hoping that one of my roommates would see it, get scared, and kill it, but I had no such luck. I just had to hope that it wouldn't attack me during the night.

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