The Oasis of the Yuyuan Garden

Shanghai: A maniacal metropolis. A city that never sleeps. Yet upon closer inspection, you can here find a serene oasis in which to admire this unique fusion of tradition and ambition. That oasis is the Yuyuan Garden.

The Yuyuan Garden is a classic garden in the heart of the Huangpu District of Shanghai, which was built and completed in the late 16th century. Despite this, it was opened for public consumption only in the 1960s. The Yuyuan Garden occupies over 5 acres of land and is very well-sculpted with classical Chinese architecture complimented with amazingly landscaped gardens and ponds.

Walking to the Gardens through the Bazaar
Walking to the Gardens through the Bazaar

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Admission to the Yuyuan Garden will set you back around 40CNY (£4 or thereabouts). Tickets are on sale each day until around 5pm. Before you buy your ticket to get into the gardens, you must negotiate a bazaar. The bazaar was certainly bizarre, with shops selling souvenirs and antiquities (and the odd toy panda!), and western style eateries such as Haagen-Daz and Starbucks all in the mix. I found this to be a little disconcerting, as in my opinion the classical architecture of the area has been ruined by adding all these western fast food chains, even though popular local delicacies such as Shanghai dumplings are on sale too.

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The famous Grand Rockery
The famous Grand Rockery

The design of the gardens has six main areas, all of which are separated from the others by what are termed as “dragon walls”; these are tiled ridged walls that have a dragon’s head on the end of each section. The most famous section is probably Sansui Hall, which has the Grand Rockery as part of its collection, as you can see from the picture above.

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Dianchun Hall

As you can see from the picture above, all of the scenery at Yuyuan Garden is amazing, and I spent around 2-3 hours walking around talking photos and doing some filming. I was very impressed with the layout of the gardens, with quaint walkways and bridges leading from one pavilion to another. The layout of Yuyuan Garden is as such that a story can be told from passing from each area and artefact from the beginning to the end. Signposts are in English as well as Chinese, and I think I also saw some Japanese notices, and these all help tell the story. I like to think of Yuyuan Garden as being an open-air museum with the odd koi pond thrown in.

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It was nice to learn that, unlike some similar attractions in Beijing (such as the Temple of Heaven or the Summer Palace), you could enter most of the halls and pavilions, and acquaint yourself with the small layout of said buildings. The picture above shows the view out of the Nine Lion Study.

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Many children and families can be seen feeding the Koi carp

I enjoyed my visit to the Yuyuan Gardens. It was nice to stroll through a tranquil Zen garden in the middle of bustling and polluted Shanghai. At times, it felt like I was in Kyoto again. I recommend a visit to these gardens to everybody.

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