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Yu Garden

Yu Garden is located at the heart of Old Town, a few blocks southwest of the Bund in downtown Shanghai. It is one of China's loveliest private classical gardens. Its name means Garden of Contentment, and it is indeed a pastoral world apart from modern and hectic Shanghai. Its construction was completed in 1577 by an official, Pan Yunduan, as the private estate for his father, who served in the Ming Dynasty as the Minister of Punishments. The portion known as the Inner Garden (Nei Yuan) was added in 1709. It is a remarkable maze of gorgeous Ming Dynasty pavilions and elaborate rockeries, arched bridges, and goldfish ponds, encircled by a massive, undulating dragon wall. Occupying just 2 hectares (5 acres), it nevertheless seems as expansive as a small town, with room for 30 pavilions.

The Great Rockery: Upon entering the garden, you will encounter a rockery, which is called the Great Rockery. With a height of 14 meters (about 50 feet), it is the largest as well as the oldest rockery in the southern region of the Yangtze River. On the top of the rockery, you can get the panorama of the garden. Cuixiu Hall sits at the foot of the rockery. It is a quiet and elegant place surrounded by old trees and beautiful flowers. Jade Rock: The true treasure of Yuyuan Garden is the Exquisite Jade Rock. The rock is 3.3 meters (about 10.8 feet) in height and has 72 holes. What is interesting about this rock is that if you burn a joss stick just below the rock, the smoke will magically float out from all of the holes. Similarly, when you pour water into the rock from top, the water will flow out from each hole creating a spectacular sight to see.

Inner Garden: South of Exquisite Jade Rock is the entrance to the Inner Garden, which was constructed in 1709 and made a part of Yu Yuan only in 1956. This is often the quietest section of the garden, particularly in the morning. It's Hall of Serenity (Jingguan Tang) at the north entrance and Tower for Watching Waves (Guantao Lou) are magnificent, as is the ornately carved Acting and Singing Stage (Gu Xitai) to the south. Local artists and calligraphers sometimes use these and other pavilions to display (and sell) their works. The exit from Yu Yuan is located next to the Inner Garden entrance (west); it puts you on Yuyuan Lu, which leads back to the Old Town pond and the Huxingting Teahouse.