Viewing Tuisi Garden is like listening to bold and unconstrained music, complete with prelude and climax. A World Cultural Heritage site, the compact Tuisi Garden, represents a true design accomplishment and is the perfect combination of man and nature.
Brief introduction to the scenic spot:
The world-class Tuisi Garden, built from the 11th to the 13th year of the Guangxu Period of the Qing Dynasty, is a masterful display of garden-building techniques. Ren Lansheng, master of the garden, was once an officer. After being sued and removed from office, he built this garden and named it “Tuisiyuan,” which in Chinese means “retreating and reflecting on one’s faults.” Yuan Long, the garden’s designer, was a skilled poet and painter. He designed the original layout and completed the garden within two years. Tuisi Garden covers an area more than 0.65 square meters.
The garden’s housing complex comprises an inner part and an outer part. Visitors enter the outer house by passing three halls—Qiao Hall (the entrance hall), the tea hall, and the main hall—clearly aligned along a west–east axis. The outer house provides space for meetings, wedding ceremonies, and for ancestral worship. The inner house, called the Wanduo Building, comprises two five-story buildings linked by dual porches to create a “U” shape. Stairways under the porches separate the master and servant residences. The inner and outer parts of the house appear both separable and integrated, creating a very compact layout.
The atrium is at the end of the residence and provides transition to the garden. The focal point of the atrium is the Zuochunwangyue Building, which stretches eastward to the garden. An irregular pentagonal building called the Lansheng Cabinet sits in the courtyard. At its front is a boat-like pavilion waiting for its voyage to the eastern scenic spot, Yuedong Gate. This gate, described as “unlocking the way through cloud and mist,” leads visitors to the eastern garden. At the front of the courtyard are the simple yet strong camphor and Yulan trees. The courtyard is lightly decorated, giving it a fascinating yet natural design that appears as upholstery for the garden.
Tuisi Garden, one of the most dynamic gardens of the world, is also called the Tianshui (linking to the water) Garden because the buildings and rockeries are laid out around the pool at the center of the garden, highlighting the pool’s imposing surface. Tuisi Garden uniquely blends water and structure, allowing the entire garden to appear to float above the water.
Facing south, the Tuisi Thatched Hall sits opposite the Guyushengliang Pavilion, the Tian Bridge, and the Xin Platform—these structures placed where people study and reflect on their wrongdoings—as well as the Naohongyike. The Thatched Hall also connects to the Ninetunes Winding Corridor built around the pool. Two stone boats sit in the pool and at Hanyuan Chamber. In China’s ancient Venetian area of Jian Nan, boats are the major transportation vehicles. These stone boats, the boat-like pavilion in the garden, and the water are symbols of expressing one’s feelings, as well as cultural features of a region full of rivers and lakes.
The architects of Tuisi Garden successfully solved the problem presented by small building sizes and a spacious pool of water by varying building elevations along the pool and by using an advance and retreat relationship between the water and the structures.
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