Unlike the Chinese gardens in Suzhou which are appreciated for their architecture, Shenyuan Garden in Shaoxing, a water town in Zhejiang province is sought by tourists who want to bask in the aura of an 800-year-old love story.
Lu You was the famous Song Dynasty poet. He was separated from and forced to divorce his wife Tang Wan by his mother. Shenyuan Garden is the special spot where the two star-crossed lovers reencountered each other.
Although they had both remarried, their love for each other was never extinguished. So close and yet so far apart from the love of his life, a heartbroken Lu You unleashed his anguish and sorrow into a poem which he carved onto a stone wall in Shenyuan Garden.
When Tang Wang saw her ex-husband’s poem, Tang Wan was overcome by despair and fell ill. Shortly before her death, she wrote a poem echoing Lu You’s.
In his mourning, Lu You revisited the Shenyuan Garden several times and his stay in Shenyuan yielded a number of poems which have been memorized by generations of people.
Shenyuan Garden was built by the rich Shen family in the Song Dynasty. It was restored in the 1980s. Besides the delicate southern style pavilions, fish ponds and rockery, the garden also has a small museum about the life and works of Lu You.
Shenyuan Garden is located within ten minutes’ walk to the former residence of Lu Xun, one of the major Chinese writers of the 20th century.
The best time to visit Shenyuan Garden is in spring when the plum trees are in full blossom. Ticket price for the garden is 40 yuan per person.