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Notes on the Gardens
Garden architecture has long been a tradition of China. Between the middle of Ming dynasty and the earlier part of Qing dynasty gardens began to thrive in Shanghai. Two famous gardens Yu Yuan (Happy Garden) and Luxiang Yuan (Dew Fragrance Garden) were constructed during the period. At the end of the Qing dynasty and the beginning of the Republic of China many more were built in this prosperous city. Altogether there were more than one hundred gardens, large and small, public and private. It was indeed a phenomenal growth both in terms of number and speed of development.

Yu Yuan

Pleasure boat with ornate lamps in Zhang Yuan

The gardens were of many different types. The earlier ones kept the traditional national style, with elegant bridges, rippling streamlets, exquisite rockwork, waterside pavilions, gorgeous flowers and precious trees. The later gardens were influenced by Japanese and European cultures, and had some of these characteristics. Quite often indigenous and foreign designs were simultaneously manifested in one garden. Also, foreign architectures appeared in Chinese landscapes. Rare species of Western and Chinese plants were seen growing side by side. Meanwhile many gardens gradually lost their seclusiveness and became profit-making enterprises. Since at that time Chinese were rigorously excluded from the city public gardens by the Shanghai Municipal Council of the International Settlement, a number of private gardens began to open to the public and sell tickets for admission. In order to enhance their attractiveness, entertainment facilities were introduced. Zhang Yuan (Zhang Garden) was an outstanding example of these gardens.

Xu Yuan

Weichun Yuan

This garden was situated at the corner of the present Nanjing Road (West) and Taixing Road. It had been a country house of a foreign businessman, but was bought by Zhang Shuhe from Wuxi county. He enlarged and reconstructed the estate and turned it into a garden, initially named Weichun Yuan (Garden of Water Shield). Apart from ponds and rockeries, weeping willows and bamboo groves, the garden featured a modern building called Ankai (comfortable Elevation) and a theater called Haitien Shenchu (Sea-Horizon Beauty). Western restaurants, novel electric appliance and recreational installations were added. Thus the garden attracted numerous visitors. What is worth mentioning is that before the downfall of the Qing dynasty, Zhang Yuan also served as a political forum. Constitionalists, reformers and revolutionaries all came to deliver speeches in the Ankai building. When Dr. sun Yat-sen and another revolutionary Zou Rong spoke here, these were big events for the citizens of Shanghai.


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