China Underground > Essential guide to China > Exploring Shanghai’s Artistic Heart: A Visit to Yu Garden

Exploring Shanghai’s Artistic Heart: A Visit to Yu Garden

Last Updated on 2024/01/25

Shanghai’s art scene is as dynamic and cosmopolitan as the city itself. Shanghai boasts several world-class museums showcasing exhibitions on everything from pioneering photography to contemporary art and the city is fast gaining a reputation for being quite the trendsetter in the global art scene.

Shanghai’s artistry doesn’t end with the poise of a paintbrush or life through a lens. For thousands of years Chinese gardens, deeply rooted in Daoist, Confucian, and Buddhist philosophies, have blended nature, art, and symbolism to reflect the country’s cultural and artistic heritage.

Located in the heart of Shanghai, Yu Garden perfectly showcases the aesthetics and principles of traditional Chinese garden artistry and is a must-see for art lovers visiting the city.

The history of  Yu Garden

Dating back to the Ming Dynasty, the garden is over 400 years old, with construction completed in 1557. The garden was originally commissioned by Pan Yunduan, a government official, to provide a private retreat for his parents.

After undergoing expansion and renovation during the 17th Century, the garden later underwent periods of neglect and decline, falling into disrepair during the Opium Wars.

In the late 19th Century, the garden saw a great deal of renovation and was fully restored and opened to the public in 1961. Since then, the garden has been beautifully maintained and remains a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.

A journey through the garden

Yu Garden stands as a testament to classical Chinese garden design and provides the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The intricate layout blends pavilions, classical structures, and koi-filled ponds, and lush vegetation. The central pond, with its zig-zag bridges connecting various parts of the garden whilst offering some stunning views.

The colorful ceramic dragons that align the Dragon Wall surrounding the garden serve as a perfect example of traditional Chinese craftsmanship and are particularly appreciated by the garden’s younger visitors!

The garden also features intricately designed rockeries typical of traditional Chinese garden symbolism, the most notable being the Exquisite Jade Rock which is a prominent attraction.

Source: Unsplash

Yuyuan Bazaar

After a stroll around the garden, a trip to the fantastic Yuyuan Bazaar is a must. This vibrant and bustling market is situated right next to the garden and is a great place to experience a wide variety of culture in a single visit.

The bazaar is dotted with traditional tea houses and is famous for its street food stalls selling a wide variety of local snacks and treats.

Yuyuan Bazaar is a haven for art lovers, with stalls selling everything from contemporary art to traditional artisanal crafts. There are also several street shows and performances throughout the year including traditional Chinese music, dance, and martial arts.

Visiting Shanghai

Owing to the increasing popularity of the city, a large selection of cheap flights to Shanghai are available from over 35 cities across the US.  Du Pong Airport is less than 20km from the city center and is well-served by affordable and accessible public transport.

When it comes to accommodation, Shanghai covers every preference and budget. From luxury hotels in iconic skyscrapers to budget hostels and guest houses, there’s plenty for holiday-makers to choose from!

For a unique stay, look out for Siheyuan; traditional Chinese inns. These charming accommodations can be found in some of the historic neighborhoods in the city and often showcase traditional Chinese architecture and culture.

Shanghai is fast becoming one of the go-to destinations and affords visitors the perfect place to soak up hundreds of years of Chinese history, culture and heritage.

Whilst there, a visit to Yu Garden is a must. Whether you’re looking for the perfect sensory exploration, or seek time away from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai, a trip to Yu Garden can provide relaxation and serenity.

Featured image: Flickr

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