It was during the Tang dynasty (618-907) that the literati garden reached its height, with a treatise on garden design being written in 634 by the painter-gardener Ji Cheng. The largest of Suzhou's gardens, the Humble Administrator's Garden, dates from 1513. The garden was so-named after a Jin dynasty (1115-1234) poem that read, “Watering the garden and selling vegetables constitute a humble administrator's business.”
About seventy private gardens remain, with a dozen of the finest open to public view. Suzhou's ornate gardens recall the harmonious combination of water with rock, yin with yang. As the visitor strolls through the garden, every turn along a corridor reveals a new vista. The ingenious division of space into distinct sections represents the garden designer’s desire to expand compressed space, most notably seen in the complex deployment of water to create waterside pavilions, pools and islands.