The Lion Grove Garden is one of the four famous gardens in Suzhou. Till now the garden already exists for 650 years. It’s a representative of gardens of Yuan Dynasty. The Lion Grove Garden is located at 23 Yuanlin Road in North-east Suzhou, Jiangsu, appears as a rectangle with the east-west boundary a little longer. The 1.1 ha garden has 0.88 ha open to the public. In 1982 the garden was defined as the Cultural Heritage Site of Jiangsu Province. Rockeries, long corridors, buildings, paths make the garden a maze. The walls of long corridors display inscriptions of famous calligraphers, such as Shi Su, Fu Mi, Tingjian Huang, and Rang Cai. Besides, there is an inscription of the poem Plum Blossom from Tianxiang Wen.
Mountains are mainly located in the South-east; while waters North-west. Around the garden are tall walls, high buildings and winding corridors. A pond is in the center area. Create mountains, build houses, planting flower and trees, and construct bridges and pavilions. It’s really a compact layout. The Lion Grove Garden has not only the classic pavilions, stages, buildings, shelves, rooms, halls, corridors, but also the amazing taihu rocks, deep caves and cleuches. It’s also known as the Kingdom of Rockeries. The rockeries are everywhere and fantastic. Taihu rocks are exquisitely carved. Gully is twisting. The whole garden is like a big maze. These are the 18 scenes of Taoyuan. Rocks on the peak look like dancing lions. Lion Peak is the best one during these famous peaks like Han Hui, Tu Yue, Xuan Yu, Ang Xia. The main building is the Yanyu Hall.
At first the Lion Grove Garden was the backyard of Bodhi Orthodox Monastery. In 1341, Monk Tianru came to Suzhou to expound the texts of Boddhism. The students respect him very much. The year after, that is 1342; students bought a land and start to build a garden for teacher. The garden was first named as the Lion Grove Monastery, and then changed to Bodhi Orthodox Monastery, then later to Saint Favor Monastery.
The garden is covered by bamboos, under which are rocks. These rocks look like lions. What’s more, Weize learned Boddhism from Abbot Zhongfeng at the Lion Peak of Mount Tianmu, Zhejiang. In memory of his teacher, he named the garden as the Lion Grove Garden. Expounding the texts of Boddhism is described as the lion’s roar in the texts. At the same time, most of the rockeries have the shape of lions. The garden’s name came from these reasons. Weize’s poem had described the scene and life in the garden. Many poets and painters came here for mediation at that time. Their works were collected in the Lion Grove Garden Collections. After Tianru's death, his students all left, and the garden fell into disrepair.
In 1373, a 73-year-old calligrapher and painter, named Zan Ni, stopped by Suzhou. He repaired the garden and created the painting Picture Scroll of Lion Grove Garden, which made the garden well-known. It became a great place for Buddhist scholars and literati and poets. During the Qing Dynasty, early years of Qianlong Emperor, monasteries became private properties. The Lion Grove Garden was not any monastery then. Its name changed to Sheyuan Garden. It also called Garden of Five Pines because of the five pines inside. The garden was purchased by Runsheng Pei in 1917, who was a paint businessman. After 9-year construction and expansion, the garden’s name was changed back to the Lion Grove Garden. (East of the garden are Pei’s ancestral hall, schools and residential buildings.)
In 1589, a monk with family name Ming, rebuilt the Saint Favor Monastery and the hall of the temple. The blossom came again. Till the years of Kangxi Emperor in Qing Dynasty, the monastery and the garden are divided apart. The magistrate of Hengzhou Xing Huang, the father of Xi Huang, bought the garden and named it as Sheyuan Garden.
February 11th, 1703, the Kangxi Emperor visited the garden, and gave a tablet the Lion Grove Monastery. Then the Qianlong Emperor also visited the garden for six times and left tablets Reflecting Mirror, True Delight, Zen Temple in Picture and so on. Huangxi got the first at the imperial competictive examination of year 1771. He repaired the garden and renamed it as Garden of Five Pines. To the Guangxu Emperor of Qing Dynasty, the Huang’s fell, and the garden fell into disrepair. Only the rockeries stood still.
In 1917, Runsheng Pei, a famous paint businessman from Shanghai, brought the garden from Chief Zhongyu Li. (Runsheng Pei is the uncle of the world-wide- known Architect Ieoh Ming Pei.) He spent 800,000 silver dollars and 7 years to repair it. More scenes were added in. The name was changed back to the Lion Grove Garden. Till then the Garden became the best one in Suzhou. Runsheng Pei was preparing to open the garden to the public, but was interrupted by the war against Japan. After Runsheng Pei died of sick in 1945, his grandson Huanzhang Pei took care of the garden. The Pei family donated the garden to the Chinese government after the liberation. Suzhou Garden Management Office took over it from then on. The garden was repaired and not opened to the public until 1954.