As part of my experience as a 2007 Fulbright Scholar to China, I had the opportunity to visit several Chinese scholar gardens in Suzhou, China. The excerpt below is from my China Blog.
The first garden visited was the Master-of-the-Nets Garden (Wangshi Yuan). This garden is among the finest gardens in China and has been designated a United Nations World Heritage site (along with nine other Suzhou gardens).
The garden is an excellent example of a traditional Chinese scholars garden, combining art, nature, and architecture to create an environment that begs one to walk through its environs. The garden was first constructed over 800 years ago (1140 AD, Southern Song dynasty), but the design has changed several times since then. Nevertheless, the name of the garden has remained constant since its creation. The Master-of-the-Nets continue to inspire people to come and walk through its buildings, along side its ponds, and sit within the gardens and enjoy the scenery and beauty of the place. Doing so is meant to inspire one intellectually, and there is no doubt that the garden has the ability to inspire (Although it could achieve that goal more effectively with less people milling about. Although in Chinese standards it was not crowded, I do not think the original intention of the garden designer and owners was to accommodate large numbers of people).
Interestingly, a portion of the Master-of-the-Nets Garden is duplicated inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.