The Lion Forest Garden differentiates itself from its brethren by being dominated by rocks. It’s quite a small garden, but the maze of walkways above and underneath the rock will be sure to have you walking in circles for some time. Dating from 1342 (Yuan Dynasty) the garden was constructed by disciples of the Zen Buddhist Abott Tianru Weize. The name comes from rocks in the garden that apparently resemble lions and have connections to a Buddhist story as well as special significance to the Abbott. Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong both visited the garden and were impressed enough to leave inscriptions and even try to recreate it elsewhere. In addition to rocks and water, Lion Forest Garden is also dotted with bamboo, old tress and sublime buildings.
Compactly yet harmoniously spaced,the Lion Forest Garden has a prominent part for series of man-made mountains with various buildings around the lake ,and an artificial waterfall and cliffs at the edge of the lake on the west. Remains of the 14th century man-made mountains,covering 1,152 sq.m.and being the largest of all at Suzhou,can be still seen today.Noted for its labyrinthine mountains with winding pathways and caverns,old pines and cypress trees,awesome peaks and jogged rocks of grotesque shapes resembling dancing lions with striking and unusral poses,it possesses with pride the true delights of mountain and forest scenery in limited space with a flavor of Zen Buddhism.
The Hall of Peace and Happiness,one of the principal buildings in the garden,is a master-piece of typical mandarin ducks’hall at Suzhou. Divided in halves, the northern half of the hall differs from the southen half in many particular aspects ,such as beam-framing systems, furnishings,pavements,carvings,window designs and so forth.With painted patterns and beam carvings and looking splendid in green and gold,the True Delight Pavilion in the royal style with the “True Delight “tablet inscribed by the Qing Emperor Qianlong is a main viewing place in the garden and differs from the other plain and elegant gardens of Suzhou.Other buildings include the pointing at Cypress Trees Hall,the Asking Prunus Mume Pavilion and the Stone Boat, etc.
The Lion Forest Garden boasts 22 buildings of varied types, 25tablets and plateaux,71steles inscribed with the famous Calligraphy Collection of the Listening to Rain Tower,23 brick carvings,5 carved wooden screens,and 13 valuable old trees such as gingo biloba L.,pinus bungeana Zucc,etc.,which fall into 5 catalogues.