The long high walls of the compound give a very ominous feeling to Ge Garden. The maze like interior leads around the grounds and to the old residences of the Salt Merchants.
Nestled in the heart of Yangzhou is one of the Four Famous Gardens of China, Ge Garden. The name was given to the garden because the character Ge (个) is said to look similar to the top of the bamboo plants that grow in every part of the enclosure. The high walls and labyrinthine interior dampens all sound from outside of the garden, making the experience very quiet. Silence is always a quality I am looking for in China.
Ge Gardens was expanded during the Ming Dynasty at the behest of Huang Zhiyun, an extremely wealthy salt merchant and leader who owned the area. The layout of the grounds is purposefully designed as small venues to show off the strengths of the garden during specific seasons. The particular areas for the seasons are signed and the most popular sight is always springtime. We avoided it. The difference between one beautiful place and another seemed academic to us and so we went and saw the other three.
Even though it is winter the gardens were still populated with dozens of locals enjoying their Sunday afternoon. We received more than a few smiles and "Hellos" from the people there. Some of whom were amazed to see foreigners in small town Yangzhou. Krista and I are used to this though and continued on our way. To the delight of the guides we even stopped and took pictures with a few of the tour groups walking around. Some of the interest that surrounded us kept up until we walked through the smaller rock gardens to gardens and canals in the back. The water was still and reflected the flowers and people milling around. It even smelled nice.
I could not help but think that this place would be fantastic to play hide and seek in. Unfortunately Ge Garden is not open late at night. More’s the shame.
We found ourselves joining a line to climb to the top of the biggest rockery in Ge Gardens. There was only one narrow staircase and people were bouncing into each other up and down the stairs. Situations like this are the norm in China. This country keeps you on the lookout for the next 90-year-old woman ready to barrel you over to get first in line. After much jostling and pushing for position, Krista and I fought to the top of the Rock. It was there that we looked out over the pretty fishponds and growths of bamboo. We had almost twelve whole seconds at the top before the people behind us let us know that we had to move on.
Krista and I spent the rest of the time in the garden walking from season view to season view, eventually finding our way back to the beginning. We thanked the elderly man working the tollbooth and went on our way.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 26, 2013