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Shanghai as a city just has a history of less than 100 years (exactly shanghai became a city on March. 21, 1927). Therefore in the mind of the public, Shanghai is too young to have a history like America. This is also the reason why many Chinese travel experts summarize Chinese travel destinations like this: to learn the modern history of China, Shanghai is the best display window; to learn the 5000 years’ history of China, Xian is the best access; and to learn the 500 years’ history of China, Beijing is the best destination. This is partially advisable, but the precondition is that Shanghai became a city after being a port. How about Shanghai before being forced to open to the western world? Actually, in ancient China, exactly before the outbreak of the opium war, Shanghai was called Songjiang(松江), and also an important regional center of East China, exactly Jiangnan today we call widely. The architectural style of old Shanghai features the classical garden-style building, and Yuyuan garden(豫园) is the typical representative in Shanghai.
Located in the northwest side of old Shanghai, Yuyuan garden is surrounded by Fuyou Road(福佑路), Anren Street(安仁街), Old City God Temple(老城隍庙) and Yuyuan Business City(豫园商城). Yuyuan garden has the unique garden design, and the special pavilions and towers as well as the impressive rockery bring this garden the reputation of the No.1 Garden of Jiangnan for its Uniqueness and Splendor. Currently, it has more than 400 years of history. Originally as the private garden of Pan family, the whole garden is comprised of Hui Hall, Giant Rockery, Iron Lion, Kuai Tower, Deyue Tower, Yulinglong, Jiyu Waterside Corridor, Tingtao Pavilion, Hanbi Tower and Ancient Stage and so on. In total, there are more than 40 ancient architectural sites. Yuyuan Garden is the show of architectural style of Ming and Qing Dynasties in southeast China.
As mentioned above, the garden owner was Pan Yunduan. And in 1559, after he failed in examination of the ministry of rituals, he had the idea of building a garden. Later, Pan Yunduan was assigned to be an official of other place, and he did not have sufficient time to operate the garden construction. In 1577, he resigned from Sichuan and returned to Shanghai, since then, he had much time to operate the garden construction. He employed Zhang Nanyang(张南阳), a famous garden designer at the time, to design the garden and build the rockery. The whole garden was designed to be quite unique and classic. In late period of Ming Dynasty, it was the peak time of littérateurs to construct the gardens. There were hundreds of private gardens in Shanghai with different sizes. But there was only the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai that could be the counterpart of Suzhou Humble Administrator Garden(拙政园) and Yanshan Garden(弇山园) of Taicang(太仓).
In 1709, the local gentlemen of Shanghai for meeting the needs of the public movement bought a part of the land on the east side of Shanghai City God Temple, which is today’s East Garden, anciently called Lingyuan(灵苑). In 1760, some local rich merchants donated much to restore the resort of gardens. After more than 20 years, another famous part of the garden was built, and it was called West Garden. The reconstructed West Garden was not the private garden any more but the gathering place of local people. But the scale and layout was the original. During the opium war, Yuyuan garden was broken. In 1842, the British troops directly entered the old city of Shanghai and stationed in Yuyuan garden and City God Temple, and their headquarters was at Huxinting, Lake-Center Pavilion.