Originally known as the Fisherman's Retreat, it was laid out under the Southern Song Dynasty, and was renamed the Master-of-Nets garden in the reign of Qianlong under the Qing Dynasty. The outstanding feature of this small but elegant garden is that it combines living quarters with the landscape garden. The physical center is pond surrounded by roofed walkways and pavilions, and decorated with trees, flowers and rockery. In short, there are scenes beyond scenes, and gardens within the garden. Many buildings are perfectly well spaced instead of being crammed. A small area of water and rockery is made to seem large. Based on illusion, the garden is full change, achieving a unity of part and whole. The Master-of-Nets Garden serves to illustrate how the few surpasses the many. In 1997, it was inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO. In 2003, it was listed as the National Tourist Attraction of Grade AAAA.
Quite different from that at broad daylight, the classical Chinese garden setting provides an atmosphere of peace and calm in the evening. It is relaxing and entertaining to tour the garden with the melodious notes of Chinese music. From the mid march to mid November, cultural performances, including local operas, folk songs, folk dance, and Chinese music, will be held every evening in exquisite pavilions and halls of Master-of-Nets Garden, the biggest stage, most realistic backdrop and ideal viewing place in which the landscape garden and performing are inextricably mixed. One is unable to tell whether he is in the garden enjoying the performing art or vice versa. Indeed, it is the most wonderful artistic conception.