Monday, December 07, 2009

A Suzhou Garden

It seems like a dream now, but just a few weeks ago I stepped from an ordinary street in China, filled with cars, shops and people,

into this: one of the famous gardens of Suzhou.

The gardens used to belong to high-ranking civil servants (the main way to get ahead in old imperial China) and were really a maze of small courtyards connected by corridors

and pathways.

They lead between ponds filled with fish

and Bonsai-tree filled courtyards,

past sunhouses

and instrumentalists on verandas,

on stepping stones

or carefully-tiled paths

to a room where a opera singer sang a slow song about, I suspect, being trapped in a beautiful house, her feet too mutilated to walk, and that a prison is still a prison even if is surrounded by the most beautiful garden in the world,

while this little girl and I listened, both of us fascinated by the painted face and the human doll who moved with ratchet-speed - or a clock wound down.