With their shaded alcoves, glittering pools churning with fish, pavilions, pines sprouting wistfully from rockeries, and roving packs of Japanese tourists, these gardens are one of Shànghǎi's premier sights – but become overpoweringly crowded at weekends. The spring and summer blossoms bring a fragrant and floral aspect to the gardens, especially in the luxurious petals of its Magnolia grandiflora, Shànghǎi's flower. Other trees include the Luohan pine, bristling with thick needles, willows, gingkos, cherry trees and magnificent dawn redwoods.
The Pan family, rich Ming-dynasty officials, founded the gardens, which took 18 years (1559–77) to be nurtured into existence before bombardment during the Opium War in 1842. The gardens took another trashing during French reprisals for attacks on their nearby concession by Taiping rebels. Restored, they are a fine example of Ming garden design.
Next to the garden entrance is the Húxīntíng Teahouse , once part of the gardens and now one of the most famous teahouses in China.
The adjacent bazaar may be tacky, but it's good for a browse if you can handle the push and pull of the crowds and vendors. The nearby Taoist Temple of the Town God is also worth visiting. Just outside the bazaar is Old Street (老街; Lǎo Jiē), known more prosaically as Middle Fangbang Rd, a busy street lined with curio shops and teahouses.