"The visitor is expected to enter the garden not only physically, but also intellectually and emotionally. There is no definite way of making the most of the scenery. You know it is right when it stirs your emotions."
~ Ji Cheng, Ming-era garden designer
One of my favorite things to do while living in Shanghai was visiting the gardens and parks. Every time I went, though, the day is cloudy and borderline rainy. You would think I would go back home, but after making the long metro ride and walking through the market there, it would be a waste not to go and see what I came for. There is, after all, a stunning appeal about this classical Chinese garden that is enveloped by modern edifices.
Even on cloudy days, the beauty of the garden is enough to captivate visitors of all nationalities and more when speaking to the history remembered by the grounds. Cloudy days may suit viewing the garden best. The garden foreigners and natives alike view is the product of a five-year restoration plan of 1956. Yuyuan Garden was constructed by Pan Yuduan for his parents. It eventually declined into dilapidation, changed hands, and stuck through tumultuous times. Now we see it here today, a re-envisioned and reinterpreted product of its original form..
Cloudy days are easy on the eyes and add an allure of mystery and calm. Going into the garden, knowing I had overcast weather, I went in with the intent to capture the atypical sights of the garden with a near grunge feel. The main sights, from the halls to Moon Gate, and the Inner Garden are all exquisite, but I find that no matter where I am, I am drawn to corners, entries, and odd spaces.
Since I gravitate towards these areas, the best time to go is in the morning. As a matter of fact, the best time, in general, is to go in the morning during a weekday. As a major tourist spot, it fills up fast. The garden opens at 8:00 a.m. or 8:30 a.m., depending on the season and day. It is best to get there right when it opens or earlier. Earlier means fewer people. Take advantage of the vacant streets and no lines. It is a good time to scout what vendors you want to see nearby before they are mobbed by crowds. You get the best feel of the old market streets surrounding Yuyuan Garden in the early morning.
As you can see from the photos here and with a quick trip to my photo album, there is a combination of desaturation and high contrast, contradicting the lack of luster. I am a fan of high contrast and while I love color, turning down the vibrance and saturation makes for an intriguing scene. All of my photos for this album were taken in RAW format for better color grading.
I never got to capture the garden on a bright and sunny day, but perhaps I'll make it back and get some shots in the sunshine.
If you would like to learn more about classical Chinese gardens, I recommend checking out The Classical Gardens of Shanghai, by Shelly Bryant.
Click on the picture to view the photo album, "A Muggy Day in Yuyuan Gardens."