A CLASSICAL GARDEN
Take a taxi northeast to Master of the Nets Garden 2 [map] (Wangshi Yuan; daily
7.30am-5.30pm (winter), 7.30am-10pm (summer); charge, evening performances additional
fee). The name refers to the ambition of its retired court official owner, who longed to be a
fisherman. The intimate garden's charm comes from its delicate, scaled-down courtyards,
pavilions and rockeries. Some of Suzhou's most exquisite antique furniture is here, notably in
the Peony Study, which has been replicated at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. From
mid-March to mid-November, the garden is the setting for traditional performances of opera,
music and dance. If you're there on a moonlit night, don't miss the Moon Watching Pavilion,
where you can see the moon thrice over: in the sky, in the pond and in a mirror.
NORTH TO PINGJIANG LU
From Master of the Nets, walk north along Fenghuang Jie, turn right on Ganjiang Dong Lu -
passing the twin pagodas of Shuang Ta - to reach Pingjiang Lu , a lovely historic cobbled
stretch along a willow-lined canal. The traditional buildings lining the street now house a
range of shops, cafés, hotels and restaurants.
Follow the signs to the Pingtan Museum (Pingtan Bowuguan; daily 8.30am-noon,
1.30-3.30pm; free), just east off Pingjiang Lu, where Suzhou's ancient oral storytelling art
comes alive. Performances are accompanied by Chinese string instruments - you don't need
to understand the narrative to enjoy its beauty.
Directly next door is the Kunqu Opera Museum (Kunqu Bowuguan; 14 Zhongzhang Jia
Xiang; daily 8.30am-4.30pm; free), which chronicles the 600-year-old Chinese opera tradi-
tion from the town of Kunshan, near Suzhou. Kunqu opera is still performed here, in a Ming
Dynasty building with a stunning wooden dome. Across the courtyard, a modern building
serves as a second stage and houses a display of costumes, masks, musical instruments
and an exhibition on the opera's history and key characters.
Head west two blocks, crossing Lindun Lu, to Guanqian Jie, another historic street, for
lunch at Suzhou's famous Song He Lou , see 2 , renowned for its local delicacies.
HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR'S GARDEN
After lunch, walk north on Pishi Jie then east on Xibei Jie and Dongbei Jie to reach the
Humble Administrator's Garden 3 [map] (Zhuozheng Yuan; 178 Dongbei Jie; daily
7.30am-5pm, 7.30am-5.30pm Mar-mid-Nov; charge, ticket includes entry to the Garden
Museum). The garden is Suzhou's largest, and its name comes from a Jin Dynasty poem:
'Cultivating a garden is the work of a humble man'. But this 4-hectare (10-acre) garden is far
from a humble undertaking. Laid out by retired Ming imperial official Wang Xianchen in 1513,