Monday, May 6, 2013

Yu Garden --Jessie Hoyng

Stepping off the tour bus and into the rain, we were greeted by street vendors trying to sell us umbrellas and roller skates before we entered the Yu Garden. The garden is in the old neighborhood of Shanghai, and the architecture and design of the area is very unique and beautiful in contrast to the modern skyscrapers that define Shanghai's skyline.

In the west, we usually think of a garden as an area of plants, flowers, trees, and maybe a small pond or some vegetables. In China, however, the term garden can also refer to a home complex. The Yu Garden, also known as the Yuyuan Garden, was the home of the family of Pan, who was a government officer during the Ming dynasty. The construction of the garden was completed in 1577.

In Chinese, yu means pleasing or happiness, and the Yu Garden was built specially for Pan's parents to have a peaceful place to enjoy their old age.

Since it was built, the Yu Garden has undergone quite a lot of change. In 1760, it was purchased by wealthy merchants who changed some the original construction. Much of the original complex was later destroyed during the Opium Wars in the 19th century. During the 1950s, however, a five-year restoration project was launched. The garden was reopened to the public in 1961 and remains available for public enjoyment today.

The garden consists of several small buildings connected by courtyards and garden paths and surrounded by flowers, ponds with giant fish, and trees. Unfortunately, it was raining on the day of our visit to the Yu Garden, but that didn't make it any less beautiful.

Shanghai is a very modern city, full of new skyscrapers, apartment buildings, and shopping streets, many of which were built within the past 30 years. The modernism of the city gives Shanghai a really cool vibe and look, but I love experiencing the old culture of China. I loved the contrast between the garden that has been around for several hundred years and brand new architecture. The garden was beautiful and fun to explore. With is ponds, flowers, rocks, trees, and buildings, the Yu Garden is a cool place to explore and provides a nice glimpse of the history of Shanghai.

-Jessie Hoyng

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