How To Visit The Stunning Humble Administrator Garden (China)

The ethereally beautiful Humble Administrator Garden is the biggest of Suzhou’s nine classical gardens. Covering an enormous 50 thousand square feet, it’s also the largest private garden in China, and it’s rated alongside Beijing’s Summer Palace as one of China’s top four gardens.

Visiting the Humble Administrator Garden in Suzhou is a must-do trip from Shanghai – it’s one of the most popular places of interest in Suzhou.

Where is the Garden of the Humble Administrator?

The beautiful waterside city of Suzhou is a delight, a welcome antidote to the frenetic modern sprawl of Shanghai. Known as the “Venice of China” and famed for its gardens and silks, Suzhou is less than an hour from Shanghai by fast train, yet it feels like it’s a whole world away.

History of the Humble Administrator Garden (Zhuo Zheng Yuan)

While not as ancient as the Master of the Nets Garden, the Humble Administrator’s Garden was designed over 500 years ago (during the Ming Dynasty) by a high-ranking Chinese official. It’s been sold and redesigned many times since – today, this amazing garden in Suzhou is a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural site.

As for paradise, above there is heaven, below there are Suzhou and Hangzhou

Chinese proverb

Suzhou is considered one of the world’s greatest garden cities. In fact, the serene and classical style of the gardens of Suzhou still influences garden design today.

Read Next: Information about the ancient Master of the Nets Garden.

When to visit the Humble Administrators Garden

Visiting this garden in Suzhou is easy, as it’s are open daily.

  • High Season ( March 1 to November 15): 07:30 to 17:30
  • Low Season (November 16 to the end of February) 07:30 to 17:00

How to get to the Garden of the Humble Administrator

By Train: The easiest way to get to Suzhou is by bullet train from Shanghai. It’s a short 25-minute journey, but be sure to take the 7 trains, so you arrive early in Suzhou. The garden gets very busy with coachloads of Chinese visitors from 8.30 am onwards. Arriving early is the best way to make sure you visit when there are the least crowds at the Humble Administrator’s Garden!

Directions: Between Shanghai and Suzhou, take the bullet train from Shanghai Hongqiao Station to Suzhou Railway Station. Then you have two options

  • BUS: take Bus Line 40 to Beiyuan Road and walk southwest for about 250m to the Humble Administrator’s Garden.
  • TAXI: Have the name of the places you want to visit written in Chinese to show to taxi drivers.

Tickets and Tours

When you arrive at the Humble Administrators Garden, head for the left-hand side to the front section, as it’s where you pick up reserved tickets. You can buy your tickets from the “foreigners” window.

You must have your passport with you to buy tickets, but you’ll miss the huge queue of local visitors waiting at the other ticket booths.

Tip: Whatever you do arrive early! Of all of the gardens of Suzhou, this is the most famous throughout China and it gets very busy, so try to arrive as the gates open at 7.30 am. That way you can have a leisurely visit and the best chance to take great photos before the hordes descend from 8.30 am onwards.

Beautiful Garden in Suzhou China

However, you may prefer to book a guided tour to see this beautiful garden. Visiting with a knowledgeable guide is the perfect way to understand the history and layout of the garden.

Here are three tour options you can choose from, departing from Shanghai. They vary slightly in duration, how you will travel to Suzhou and what you see.

Pick the one that best suits your sightseeing plans, travel style and time allocation.

Read: Why a private tour guide is a good choice for first-time visitors to China

How long should you spend at the Humble Administrator’s Garden?

You’ll probably want to spend at least 2 to 3 hours visiting this garden in Suzhou, to appreciate all of the different areas and to enjoy the garden fully.

What To See at the Humble Administrator’s Garden

The garden is full of attractive little “hobbit holes”. OK we know that’s not really what they are, but it’s what they look like. They were designed to provide a visual link between different areas of the garden. Just like little framed windows, these holes tempt the visitor to keep on exploring and discovering more treasures.

Hobbit Holes Garden of the Humble Administrator Suzhou China min
The Humble Administrator’s Garden Suzhou is full of beautiful little ‘hobbit holes’ like this one!

Best Things to See in the Humble Administrator’s Garden

Everywhere you look there is water in the garden, linking beautiful features including small forests, hills, and rock formations. The reflection of trees and buildings in the water makes the garden a very serene and restful place.

humble administrators garden suzhou

There are many charming little buildings for you to explore, each one designed to make the most of the views available. No matter what the season is, you’ll find places to see the garden at its glorious best.

garden of the humble administrator in Suzhou China

The old theatre is simply stunning, with handcrafted blue glass windows overlooking the lotus flowers in the lake.

unesco world heritage garden in Suzhou

Even on a busy day, you’ll find moments when there are no people in the way of getting your favourite photos!

humble administrator garden in suzhou

One of the great joys of the garden is discovering little pathways and bridges crossing the water and connecting the buildings.

There’s beautiful, intricate detail everywhere. Even the footpaths are stunning, decorated with creatures from Chinese culture like bats, which are symbols of happiness and joy.

pathway detail humble administrator garden in suzhou

Pro Tip: As the Chinese word for bat sounds exactly like the word for good fortune, bats are often seen in decorations. A group of five bats together represents the “Five Blessings” which are long life, health, wealth, love of virtue, and peaceful death.

What You Won’t See at The Garden

This garden in Suzhou is a classical Chinese garden, not a botanical garden. You won’t see the huge variety of blooms and plants you might expect to see in a Western-style garden, but that’s not the point here. Everything is about style and design and how nature has been harnessed to provide a place of deep serenity.

After Your Visit

It’s a short, easy walk to the Suzhou Museum and Lion Grove Garden from the Humble Administrator’s Garden, and the ethical Suzhou Silk Museum and Suzhou Art Gallery are within walking distance too (just a 15-minute walk).

If you want to see the ancient Master of Nets Garden, it’s about a 30-minute walk, but you can get there by bus (number 55 or 202).

Top Tip: There are too many gardens in Suzhou to get around them all in one day, so choose which ones you want to see before you go!

One of the loveliest ways to explore the places of interest in Suzhou is by bike. It’s a great way to skip the crowds and get to see more of the city’s famous waterways. You’ll also see beautiful stone bridges, and stunning pagodas, and can get away from the usual tourist track to see tiny craft shops, art galleries, narrow alleys, and coffee shops in the historic Piangjiang district.

Last Word

The Humble Administrators Garden in Suzhou is a magical place for a day trip from Shanghai. It’s the ideal garden in Suzhou to visit if you are short of time and faced with having to choose just one garden to visit.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to the Humble Administrator Garden. For more information, check out some of my other in-depth China guides:

If you’d like to visit the Ultimate Garden in Suzhou, Pin for later!

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Coralie Thornton

Coralie is an over 50s travel writer based in Yorkshire in the UK who writes engaging travel tips, destination guides, and detailed itineraries about the UK, Europe and beyond to inspire boomer travel. When she's not travelling, she's either planning a new trip, exploring locally in the UK, visiting castles and cathedrals, or finding somewhere new to enjoy afternoon tea.

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