This small but perfectly-formed garden is often overlooked by visitors who are drawn to Sūzhōu's larger and more famous gardens. Its simple layout makes use of the most basic methods of classical garden design - rockeries, water features, covered corridors - while some of the living quarters are decorated with furniture, creating an intimate atmosphere.
The compound's compact size means you can actually imagine it as someone's private dwelling. While it was originally purchased and designed in 1620 by Wen Zhenheng, grandson of Wen Zhengming, the designer of the Humble Administrator's Garden, its former owner Jiang Cai is a key figure in the garden's history. A respected scholar and minister of foreign affairs during the late Ming dynasty, he apparently exiled himself in protest against corruption of the era, but not before he added a beautiful grove of fig trees to his beloved garden, which his son eventually inherited and continued to develop. Be sure to spend time appreciating their work over a cup of tea at the pretty teahouse overlooking the pond.
Tucked away down traditional whitewashed streets, the garden is tricky to find. Keep an eye out for arrows and the garden's name in Chinese daubed in bold red characters on the walls. Its hidden location means it largely remains free of the crowds that dominate other gardens, making this a wonderful place to appreciate the serenity that was an essential feature of all Suzhou's gardens.