个园 Ge Garden is one of the 4 famous gardens of China – 北京颐和园 Summer Palace of Beijing, 苏州拙政园 Suzhou ZhuoZheng Garden, 承德避暑山庄 Chengde Summer Resort, and the most well kept one in whole of Yangzhou.
I have been to the ones in Beijing and Suzhou, the Summer Palace was huge, the ZhuoZheng Garden was elegant, but Ge Garden, in my personal opinion, the most deliberate. This is because the owners were never mandarins that got them as a bequest, but merchants that built it through their wealth.
The Bamboo Garden
From the name, Ge 个, the character resembles bamboo leaves. The place was named Ge Garden because the owner that did the most renovations Huang Zhi Yun 黄至筠 was a bamboo lover. Even his name was bamboo 筠.
An elegant pavilion adorned the bamboo garden with over 100 species of bamboo collected from all over China. Imagine that happened in the 16th century when transport was not advanced.
Besides bamboo they had a really good collection of bonsai.
The bamboo garden.
Stone formation leading to the main garden.
Four Season Stone Formations 四季假山
The main garden is also known as the Four Seasons Garden because it featured 4 sets of rock formations that represent the four seasons.
View of the main garden from the second floor.
This was the longest free-standing upper corridor in China.
Other bits of the spring formation include the 12 zodiac animals signifying the coming of spring.
Spring formation is made of up of stalagmites called 笋石 that resemble bamboo shoots popping out from the ground. This the first formation of a guest came in from the main house.
Summer formation is made from the stones from bottom of Taihu. Good stones have to be 漏透皱瘦 porous, let light thru, crumbly and skinny, and the uglier the better.
Autumn formation was made from yellow stone. It towers up at the opposite side of summer and features two pavilions on the top
There are three ways through the autumn formation, only one way leads you from one end to the other. One brings you in a loop and the other is a dead end. It signifies that life is like these 3 ways, some go the wrong ways and spent their whole lives in circles, troubling over the same things, some stubbornly stuck to one way and found themselves in a dead end, seldom one will find the straight and direct way.
Winter formation made from marble tried to recreate the feeling of winter during the other seasons. The formation turned all white during the actual season.
The Main House
平平静静 taken from vase 瓶 and mirror 镜. And the stone is from Guangzhou taking the same sound as 时来运转. Chinese and their auspicious fengshui.
团团圆圆 everything in the dining room is round to signify togetherness. You must be wondering then why the table seemed to be split into two? In the past, when the male is not at home, the female host will not keep the guests for dinner. So the servants will move the other half of the table away, so the guests would know why.
Unlike the commoner, the uberrich had 5 stoves instead of 2/3 stoves. And unlike the north of China, stoves in the south placed the wood fire from behind. The insets in the front were for drying socks and shoes, as Yangzhou weather can be quite wet and people used to wear cloth shoes.
The beams of the main hall were made with 金丝楠木 Phoebe Zhennan. These are the same material used to build the Forbidden City.
What is different in this hall leading to the study is that it had been shaved square to remind the descendants to be upright 方方正正.
The arc was used to support the stone structure of the two storey house. Intelligence of our ancestors.
The main entrance. This used to be the main road leading to the house. And when you entered, you reached the reception hall first. Then the stone garden, then the bamboo garden at the back of the house. So these days, you can only visit gardens from the backdoors!
The main reception hall. For the most important guests. Notice it is brighter than all the other halls.
This is the side reception hall. Notice that the words 勤博 are missing a straight and a dot respectively. The calligrapher Ruan Yuan wanted his students to remember that you cannot take shortcut to be hardworking 勤 （奋）and to be learned 博（学).
The second son’s study room.
The hall for the owner.