Shíhù Garden

Historic Site in Weifang

This Ming dynasty courtyard home belonged to Ding Shanbao, a Jiāngsū merchant who at one time owned half the town. In 1885 he restored the property as his private residence and put the focus on its garden, considered a masterpiece of Sūzhōu-style design with an unusually compact arrangement of the requisite pond, bridge, pavilion and surrounding rockery.

For kicks, Shanbao designed some structures in the living quarters smaller than the usual dimensions and then named the property 'Ten Tablet Garden', meaning pocket-sized. (Tablets used by officials to record edicts on were generally made of strips of bamboo – so even a stack of 10 was not so large.) The 67 well-preserved structures have since served as a backdrop for many a docudrama. The oldest is Yànxiāng Lóu (砚香楼), sleeping quarters built 400 years ago and converted into a library.

The surrounding old streets, in the middle of restoration when we visited, also make for an interesting stroll.

Take bus 3 or 62 (¥1) from the train or bus station, respectively.