The oldest of Suzhou's classical gardens, the Pavilion of Calm Waves (Canglang Ting) has perhaps the most natural mood. It incorporates a nearby canal, a small wooded hill, and a meandering, almost maze-like arrangement of walkways, groves, and walls to create a feeling of great size, natural calm, and unexpected surprises.
The garden lies next to one of Suzhou's canals, and alongside the garden it widens into a small pond (the "calm waves" of the garden's name). You enter the garden by crossing a bridge over the canal and passing through its main gate, where a side door leads to one of the garden's highlights, its double-sided waterside walkway. The wall separating the garden from the pond has walkways on both sides, and its walls are pierced by many windows, each with unique lattice patterns. Walking along the water side you can glimpse a changing panorama of the garden inside through the windows, while from inside the garden you can see the calm waters outside.
The windows of the walkway show another of the garden's highlights - its amazing array of different shaped windows and their distinctive latticework. Each one of the garden's several hundred windows are unique in design and decoration. The square framed windows are decorated with elegant latticework in abstract geometric designs or patterns evoking the foliage of plants and flowers, while other windows are more exotically shaped like leaves, flowers, crescents, and even chili peppers! The windows are placed to create interesting panoramas over the garden, hint at areas still to be seen, and add charm and interest.
Another special characteristic of the garden is its feeling of great size. Although not that much larger than many other classical gardens, the Canglang Ting is laid out to create the feeling of exploring a large natural area in the heart of the city.
Just inside the main gate is a long, low hill covered with small trees, with a path along its crest dotted with tall and strangely shaped rocks. Climbing over the hill and is meant to evoke climbing mountains, and provides glimpses of the other sections of the garden. Unlike some other gardens which are laid out in a clear and orderly fashion, the pavilions and passages in the rear of the garden are meandering and even slightly confusing. Moving through them, a narrow walkway suddenly opens into a thick grove of bamboo, and from there a small side door might lead into an artificial cave, while the door next to it might double back to an elegantly decorated courtyard.
Wandering through the green and quiet back sections of the garden yields all sort of unexpected surprises - even though the actual garden is fairly small, even after exploring for an hour there are still some quiet halls or tiny courtyards still undiscovered!
China tours inclusive of visiting CangLangTing Garden, Suzhou