Suzhou’s Surging Wave Pavilion (沧浪亭)

To say Suzhou has a lot of gardens is an understatement somewhat akin to saying China’s got a lot of people.

To say Suzhou has a lot of gardens is an understatement somewhat akin to saying China’s got a lot of people.

It’s the fact that there are so many of them that I’ve only slowly crept out to visit them. Much like temples in China, Suzhou’s gardens do tend to blend together. Generally speaking, they all contain a bamboo garden, big rocks, a pond full of hungry koi, a UNESCO World Heritage site marker, and several busloads of daytrippers.

My apartment is a 10-15 minute walk from two such gardens, but living next to a UNESCO World Heritage site tends to numb you to the experience. Regardless, with Maggie’s mom visiting for the holiday, we wanted to get out and show her a bit of the town.

At the entrance to the garden.

So it was that we trotted over to Cānglàng Tíng, better known in English-speaking circles as Surging Wave Pavilion (though the name translates as Blue Wave Pavilion – any experts know why?).

The garden is Suzhou’s oldest garden, dating back about a thousand years to China’s Northern Song Dynasty. It also holds the honour of being one of Suzhou’s smallest and, with a 20 RMB ticket price, cheapest gardens.

You can get at the garden from an alley off of the southern most end of Renmin Rd. A more interesting way is to follow the canal off of WūQuè Qiáo (parallel to Renmin Rd.), where you get a little peak at some of the classical “on the water” homes.

The garden, as mentioned, is small. You can comfortably explore it in an hour or two. Though not unknown, it is considerably less trafficked than the bigger gardens in town like Master of the Nets and The Humble Administrator’s Garden. This and its low price tag make it one of the better gardens to go to and just relax.

Common to most gardens, the circular gateway.

This post was previously published on and is republished here with a Creative Commons license.

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