The Master of the Nets Garden (Wangshi Yuan, Net Expert's Garden) is one of the four famous gardens in Suzhou, and the member of the World Cultural Heritage Sites. It is located in No. 11 Kuojiatou Lane, Daichengqiao Road, Suzhou. It is a typical Suzhou Mansion garden as well as the magnum opus of the middle and small-sized classical garden in south China.
The Master Nets Garden is the smallest of its kind in Suzhou – half the size of Canglangting, and one tenth the size of Zhuozheng Yuan. In fact, so small (about 5,333 square meters), it's hard to find. But it's well worth the trouble since this micro outstrips the others combined. It was laid out in the 12th century, abandoned, then restored in the 18th century as the residence of a retired official. One story has it that he announced he'd had enough of bureaucracy and would rather be a fisherman; another explanation of the name is that it was simply near Wangshi Lu.
The eastern part of the garden is the residential area – originally with siderooms for sedan-chair lackeys, guest receiving halls, and living quarters. The central part is the main garden. The western part is an inner garden where a courtyard contains the Spring Rear (Dianchun) Cottage, the master's study. This section – the study with its Ming –style furniture and palace lanterns – was duplicated and unveiled at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1981. A miniature model of the whole garden, using Qingtian jade, Yingde rocks, Anhui paper and Suzhou silk – incorporating the halls, kiosks, ponds, blossoms and rare plants of the original design – was produced especially for a display at the Pompidou Center in Paris in 1982.
The most striking feature of Wangshi Yuan is its use of space. Despite its size the scale of the buildings is large, but nothing appears cramped. A section of the buildings is used by a co-operative of woodblock artists who find the peaceful atmosphere congenial to work. One should not spoil this garden's surprises any further – the entrance is a narrow alley-way just west of the Suzhou Hotel.