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Mudu – The Land of Private Gardens

Mudu is a famous ancient town in the Yangtze River Delta.  With its beautiful scenery and rich natural resources, it is encircled by some famous mountains in the Wu area: Tianpeng, Lingyan, Shishan and Qizi, which was called "cornucopia".

Mudu ancient town ranks first among thirteen scenic spots of Taihu Lake. It is the only ancient garden town of China. During the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) and Qing dynasty (1644–1912) there were more than 30 private gardens in the town, over a dozen of which have been preserved.

  • Transport: 2.5 hours' drive from Shanghai; 30 mins' drive from Suzhou
  • History: over 2,500 years
  • Recommended visiting time: 1 day
  • Suitable for: everyone
  • English signs: not many
  • Features: a collection of private gardens

Why We Recommend Mudu

Mudu

A famous water town, Mudu is the same age as Suzhou i.e. very old.

  • According to legend, in the last years of the Spring and Autumn Period (771–476 BC) and Warring States Period (475–221 BC), Gou Jian, the King of Yue used a "honey trap" and offered a beauty Xi Shi to the king of Wu, Fu Chai, after defeat in the endless dispute between the Wu Kingdom and the Yue Kingdom.
  • Fu Cai made a pet of Xi Shi and constructed Guanwa Palace for her in the beautiful Lingyan Peak, adding Gusu Altar in Purple Stone Hill. In order to complete these projects, people spent three years lumbering and five years building

An endless supply of timber stopped up rivers and harbors at the foot of the mountain, so the name Mudu (wood, river) came from "Mu Se Yu Du (timber blocking the rivers)".

Explore the Highlights

The following 4 highlights of Mudu are highly recommended for you to explore.

Private Garden in Mudu

1. Yans' Garden

Yans’ Garden (Yanjia Huayuan) was originally the residence of a famous scholar Shen Deqian during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1736-1796) in the Qing dynasty. In 1902, the wealthiest family in the town, the Yans, bought the garden, resulting in the name “Yans’ Garden”.

After several renovations during more than two hundred years, Yans’ Garden was given historical elegance by the vicissitudes of life and culture, and considered to be a “classic private garden” in the Yangtze River Delta.

2. Hongyin Shanfang Garden

Residence in Mudu

Located 200 meters to the east of Yans’ Garden, Hongyin Shanfang Garden was a garden well-known in Suzhou for its charming scenery during the reign of Emperor Qianlong.

The Emperor made inspection tours of the Yangtze River Delta six times. He visited the garden every time he traveled to Mudu, to chant and write poems with his teacher Shen Deqian and amuse himself by sipping tea and playing chess, leaving many legends on everyone's lips.

As a result, locals called Hongyin Shanfang Garden a "folk palace" of Emperor Qianlong.

3. Old Pine Garden

One of the most notable attractions in Mudu, Old Pine Garden was built by a millionaire in the last dynasty. The garden hosts residential quarters with a backyard, which was the typical style of a private garden in the Qing dynasty.

The buildings in the garden are simple but tasteful, with exquisite carvings and artistic value. There is an old pine tree planted in the backyard during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), vigorous and graceful, thus the name “Old Pine Garden”.

4. Lingyan Hill

Lingyan Hill

Standing at the northwest of Mudu, Lingyan Hill spreads over 124 hectares (about 306 acres) at a height of 182 meters (about 597 feet). On the hill there are many remarkable rocks with special shapes, especially the lingzhi-mushroom-shaped rock, thus the name “Lingyan Hill”.

Many stones on the mountain can be made into inkstones, so it’s also called Yan Hill (Inkstone Hill). Besides, because from a distance the mountain looks like an elephant, it is also named Xiang Hill (Elephant Hill).

Walking along the path to the top, you’ll find Gusu Altar, Guanwa Palace, and Xishi Cave along the way and Lingyan Temple on the peak.

How to Get to Mudu

1. Suzhou–Mudu (50 minutes)
Take bus No. 2, 38, 43, 63, 64, 65, 69, 312, 315, 326, 446, 502, 505, 506, 508, 511, 512, 622 or tourist bus No. 4and get off at Mudu Station or Yanjia Huayuan Station.

2. Shanghai–Mudu (2 hours)

Beautiful Scenery

Take a tourist bus from Shanghai Stadium (at Gate 5) or Hongkou Football Court (at Gate 2). The bus departs at 08:10 and 07:20 respectively on weekends at the two places. It returns at 16:00.

3. Hangzhou–Mudu (3 hours)
Take a tourist bus from Hangzhou Tour Bus Center (at Dragon Sports Center) to Suzhou Bus Station and then take bus No. 43, 63 or 512 to Mudu.

Alternatively, visitors can take a train or bus from Shanghai/Hangzhou to Suzhou Railway Station and then take bus No. 38, 63, 64, 69, 502 or tourist bus No. 4 to Mudu.

Best Time to Visit Mudu

The scenery in Mudu is suitable for a visit from March to November. In comparison to other famous ancient towns such as Wuzhen, Zhujiajiao and Zhouzhuang, there are not so many big tourist groups going to Mudu.

  • Admission Fee: Free (but costs extra for the sites in the town)
  • Opening Time:

The town is open all day long. But opening hours of the scenic spots in the town are 8:00 – 17:00 in spring, summer and autumn, and 8:00 – 16:30 in winter.

Accommodation

Green Dumplins

There are about 110 hotels and hostels in and around Mudu, of different standards. The star-rated hotels include Jiushu Resort and Downing Residence. Ranking slightly lower, Rujia Budget Hotel and Dengxian Inn are popular choices. Prices range from 130 to 600 RMB.

Most hotels in Mudu are well-equipped with modern facilities like western style toilet, wi-fi, phone and television. Some high-end hotels cost about 600 RMB per room per night.

Food in Mudu

There is a wide range of local snacks in Mudu, such as black rice, green dumplings, or sweet rice wine, and these can be savored in street shops.

Recommended Itinerary

Yans' Garden – Hongyin Shanfang Garden – Old Pine Garden – Bangyan Mansion – Lingyan Hill