The Humble Administrator's Garden is a Chinese garden in Suzhou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous of the gardens of Suzhou. The garden is located at 178 Northeast Street. At 78 mu (5.2 ha; 13 acres), it is the largest garden in Suzhou and is considered by some to be the finest garden in all of southern China.
On the garden's site was first built a garden during the Shaoxing period (1131-1162) of the Southern Song Dynasty. Afterwards it changed ownership, and was destroyed or modified continually. It was the residence and garden of Lu Guimeng, a Tang Dynasty scholar. Later in the Yuan Dynasty it became the Dahong Temple's garden.
The garden contains numerous pavilions and bridges set among a maze of connected pools and islands. It consists of three major parts set about a large lake: the central part (Zhuozheng Yuan), the eastern part (once called Guitianyuanju, Dwelling Upon Return to the Countryside), and a western part (the Supplementary Garden).
The house lies in the south of the garden. In total, the garden contains 48 different buildings with 101 tablets, 40 steles, 21 precious old trees, and over 700 Suzhou-style penjing/penzai. According to Lou Qingxi, compared with the layout from the Zhenghe Period in the Ming Dynasty, the garden "now has more buildings and islets", and although lacks a "lofty" feeling, it is "still a masterpiece of meticulous work".
Liu Dunzhen judged that the arrangement of rocks and water in the ponds of the central third may have its origins in the early Qing. The western third retains the late nineteenth-century layout, while the eastern third has seen several renovation since. But Clunas believes that even this is unreasonably optimistic, and he underlines that Liu Dunzhen and others tend to imply that, "despite the vicissitudes of history, there is continuity at the much more important level of essence".
Eastern Garden: Composed of a few buildings around a central great lawn and pond combination. The lawn is ringed by a grove of crape myrtle trees which is an allusion to the Tang Dynasty State Secretariat which was nicknamed the Crape Myrtle Department.
Central Garden: This section is composed of many scenes arranged around the "Surging Wave" Pond. Within the pond three islands recreate the scenery of the fairy islands of the east sea.
Western Garden: This part is only half the size of the central part, and is also mainly dominated by water. The pond runs from north to south, and at the central part rises an islet. Although small, it is planned with meticulous care and precision. The buildings, though numerous, do not clutter, small mountains and ponds do not give a cramped impression.