Suzhou known for its resplendent gardens and beautiful scenery.
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Suzhou, which became one of China’s coastal open cities in 1985, is situated at the mouth of the Yangtze River about 100 kilometers to Shanghai. A city known for its resplendent gardens and beautiful scenery, encompassing 5,838 square kilometers with a population of 6.35 million Suzhou’s history dates back more than 2,500 years.
Suzhou, reputed as the “Venice of the Orient,” has a well-established silk industry and served as a special district during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), when the production of woven and embroidered silk for the imperial household was strictly supervised. The old part of town is still a city of canals, hump-backed bridges, and low, white washed houses. Above all Suzhou is famous for its exquisite gardens, over 100 of which survive. The Garden of the Master-of-the-Net (part of which has been reproduced in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, U.S.A.), the Humble Administrator’s Garden and the Lingering Garden are some fine examples. The city is also notable for its silk production, silk embroidery and other handicrafts such as sandalwood fans.
One of China’s oldest art forms, embroidery (known in China as “xiuhua” or “zhahua,” meaning “making ornamental designs on cloth with a needle”) has several styles that vary depending on the region in which they are produced. Suzhou is one of China’s four major embroidery centers (the others being Hunan, Guangdong and Sichuan), with works that are noted for their flat surfaces, neat edge, delicacy, and close, even stitches. Suzhou’s Wuzhoung and Xiangcheng districts alone have more than 100,000 craftspeople skilled in embroidery.
The city is also the “museum of cultural relics.” Pagodas and ancient bridges are scattered around the city. According to the Pingjiang Map in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), 314 bridges were built, of which 161 bridges remain in the city. The city is the “metropolis of arts.” Suzhou embroidery, which first appeared in the Song Dynasty, is illustrious for its rich stitch varieties and exquisite craftsmanship. The embroidery is one of the four famous embroidery schools in China. Kittens and goldfish are common motifs. With 48 embroidery techniques and silk threads in over 5,000 different colours, the institute turns out unique needlework, of which double-faced embroidery is the most outstanding. Suzhou is home to various schools of literature, painting and music, including Kunqu Opera (listed as one of the UNESCO’s first batch 19 masterpieces of oral and intangible cultural hertage in 2001) and Suzhou Ballad Singing, making an important part of Chinese art and culture. Today’s Suzhou is on the track of development and prosperity. Taking a panoramic view of Suzhou new district, skyscrapers and modern residential areas are visible everywhere.
The long history of the city has left behind many attractive scenic spots and historical sites with beautiful and delightful legends. The elegant and classical gaerdens, old fashioned houses, and delicate bridges hanging over flowing waters in the drizzling rain, the beautiful lakes with undulating hills in lush greenery, the numerous scenic spots and historical sites, and the exquisite arts and crafts, have made Suzhou a world famous historical and cultural city full of eternal and poetic charming.
Suzhou used to be the capital of the Wu State during the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BC). In 514 BC, by the command of King He Lü of Wu his senior minister Wu Zixu伍子胥 (?-484 BC) built the Great City of He Lü, and its wall measured 23.5 kilometers in circumference with 8 pairs of land and water gates. The city began to take the name of Suzhou and Gusu City during the Sui Dynasty (581-618). Great changes have taken place in Suzhou through its vast history. Yet, despite of repeated devastation, the city is still seated exactly on the original site, as it was 2,500 years ago, which is indeed an instance rarely found in the world.
Situated at longitude 120°25′E and latitude 31°19′N , Suzhou falls into subtropical zone, with an annual average temperature 15.8℃ , annual average rainfall 1,076㎜ , sunshine over 2,000 hours and its elevation being only 5 meters. The mild climate, enough sunshine, and sufficient water resources make Suzhou a land of aboudance in produce.
With favourable natural conditions and fertile soil, Suzhou has long been known as the “home of silk,” and a “land of fish and rice,” reflected in the saying “Good harvest in Suzhou and Huzhou suffices to feed all under heaven.” Well developed in agriculture with abundant produce and stable and high yields, Suzhou has always been regarded through the ages as a “granary” in further development of Suzhou’s economy, and made Suzhou an important industrial city in China.
Suzhou is one of China’s oldest continuously inhabited towns and is , by Chinese criteria, among the country’s most beautiful cities. Although tall apartment buildings now far outnumbered Suzhou’s seven pagodas, the old city has retained its traditional appearance as well as its economic focus on fine handicrafts.
The city of Suzhou has remained on the same site for more than 2,500 years, mainly because of these alleys, The alleys extend parallel with the city’s canals, laying the old city out regularly like a chessboard. Only three ancient Chinese cities boast this chessboard design, the other two being Beijing and Xi’an.
Suzhou is also distinguished for delicious dishes, which go back to the “boat dishes,” mentioned as early as the Tang Dynasty. At that time, most rich people liked to hold banquets on boats so they could enjoy the beautiful scene and food at the same time. Since the kitchens on boats were small, the foods featured delicacy instead of large quantities. Today, the food of Suzhou follows this tradition, and is sweet, light in taste, uses high-quality ingredients and exquisite cooking. Its vegetable and aquatic dishes are especially famous. The two restaurants enjoying the highest reputation are Songhelou and Deyuelou. Other new restaurants such as Tianzhu, Xiangyuan, Runji, Qinghua and Nankai also provide high quality food and good services. You receive the finest of quality, prepared with care and expertise. The restaurant attendants who really care cater you with quality service. You’ll want to return.
Established during the reign of the Qing Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795), this restaurant offers Suzhou-style cuisine, including “squirrel-shaped mandarin fish,” and “Gusu Marinated Duck.” Songhelou covers an area of 4,800 square meters with seven large-and small-size dining rooms and 12 private rooms. A banquet for over 1,000 persons can be held here.
Founded during the Ming Dynasty, this restaurant has been treating its patrons with Suzhou-style dishes and snacks for more than 400 years. Deyuelou is comprised of three different restaurants, one of which specializes in snack foods. Overlooking the beautiful and tranquil Suzhou gardens, gourmets can enjoy more than 300 dishes, which attract hundreds of thousands of tourists from home and abroad each year. The chef’s Biluo shelled shrimp is the most appetizing.
The Humble Administrator's Garden 拙政园
The Humble Adminstrator’s Garden in lush and distinctive Garden is the largest one in the city. It used to be the residence for Lu Guimeng 陆龟蒙 , a Tang-dynasty poet; while in the Yuan Dynasty it was used as the Dahong Temple 大宏寺 . During the early reign of Emperor Jiajing (1522-1566), Wang Xianchen 王献臣, an imperial envoy resigned and returned to his hometown. He bought the temple and converted into the Humble Administrator’s Garden. During the period 1860 to 1864, it used to be within the Prince Zhong’s residence during the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Revolution (1851-1864). Since 1949, the Garden has been undergone several renovations. It has taken on a completely new look, and opened to the public since 1954. The present Garden encompasses 1.867 hectares (4.67 acres), and three-fifth of the Garden is taken up by water.
The Garden is made up of three sections: east, west, and central. The Garden in the center is the most splendid and picturesque. Tourists can sit in the Distant Fragrance Pavilion (Yuanxiangting) beside the lotus pond. Also known as the “Four-Sided” Pavilion, it is open on all sides to the Garden and its many other pavilions, rockeries, and winding bridges. The bank of the lotus pond is lined with willows thus creating an atmosphere of tranquillity and seclusion. Following a winding path up a small hill and at the top, tourists will find a wood tablet upon which is inscribed “Between Mountain Flowers and Wild Birds.” There are antithetical couplets on both sides. On the left: “The forest is more peaceful while cicadas are chirping.” On the right: “The mountain is more secluded while the birds are singing.” Win Zhenming (1470-1559), a famous painter, calligrapher and litteratus of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), wrote the calligraphy. Beautiful brick carvings and relief sculptures adorn the walls of many of the structures. The subtle beauty of the garden, its lovely Garden architecture and wealth of fine art capture a part of tourists’ memory.
The Humble Administrator’s Garden is one of the four famous gardens in China and the other three being the Summer Palace in Beijing 北京颐和园, the Mountain Hamlet to Flee the Heat or the Imperial Mountain Summer Resort in Chengde, Hebei Province 河北承德避暑山庄 , and the Lingering Garden in Suzhu 苏州留园 . UNESCO has inscribed them all in the World Heritage List. The Humble Administrator’s Garden is also one of the four noted gardens in Suzhou, and the other three being Pavilion of the Surging Waves 沧浪亭 , Lion Grove 狮子林 , and Lingering Garden (or Garden to Linger In) 留园.
Garden of Master-of-the-Net 网师园
Garden of the Master-of-the-Net is the smallest one in Suzhou. Its former owner, professing to be above politics, styled himself a fisherman. Within a half hectare of land a small bamboo hut was put up to serve as a study. It is decorated with palace lanterns and scroll of calligraphy and painting. In front of it peonies grow in abundance. Most fascinating is the small yard, only two meters across, separating the study from the back wall. Bamboo, banana and Winter sweet grow in this tiny Garden among man made rocks and hills. The three windows of the study frame the Garden into Chinese landscape paintings. Part of the Garden has been reproduced in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, USA.
Guanqian Street 观前街
The name comes from Xuanmiao Temple, which sits in the middle of the street and has long been a Taoist resort. The street is well crammed with fine and diverse shops, restaurants and services of all kinds, and its history can be traced back more than 1,000 years. They give you unsurpassed variety and selection. The street has a lengthy of 760 meters, including eastern, middle and western sections. The eastern part has kept most of the ancient buildings of historical significance, including many traditional shops of famous brands. The middle is mainly the temple, and fashionable shops occupy the western portion.
Arts and Crafts Zone: The two-storey Han-Tang Dynasty Pavilion offers for sale a miscellany of traditional art works, including folk carvings, brick works, stone carvings, lacquerware, jade, embroidery, traditional paintings and furniture in the Ming and Qing styles. On the second floor, the China Suzhou Wild Swan Gallery has a collection of contemporary oil paintings and sculptures. The gallery stages exhibitions and performances frequently at its Art Saloon, including Pingtan (storytelling and ballet singing in Suzhou dialect) performances, traditional painting exhibitions, and Chinese folk art shows.
Lingering Garden or Garden to Linger In 留园
Lingering Garden is one of the cerebrated gardens in Suzhou. It was first constructed in 1460 in the Ming Dynasty. Winding throughout the Garden is a 700-meter-long corridor, and on the walls of which are a great number of stone carvings and windows. Within the Garden is “Yet Another Village又一村,” a winding path with a trellised grape vine canopy. All along the path are hundreds of potted flowers and trees, some as much as three hundred years old. The Lingering Garden boasts the largest rock in South China. It is nine meters high, weighs five tons and was transported from Lake Tai some four hundred years ago. Because of its height and shape it was named “Cloud-Capped Peak.” Limestone boulders like this were quarried from mountains around the lake and sunk in it where they stayed, eroding into strange shapes with cavities and grooves. These are the rocks that have been used in the landscaping of many famous gardens in China.
Encompassing 3.3 hectares (8.15 acres), the Garden is divided into four parts: east, west, central and north. Lingering Garden is the masterpiece of the Garden building in ancient China and put under special preservation by the Chinese Government.
Lion Grove 狮子林
The Lion Grove is one of the four noted gardens in Suzhou. It was first built in 1342 in the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). This small Garden is truly exquisite in design, the rockeries imaginative. Entering the Garden the tourist will find stones in various interesting shapes. Look at them closely, they are lions: lying sitting , slinking along, standing on hind legs, embracing a ball made of strips of silk. The rockeries form a labyrinth of caves. Some are linked with each other and others are not. Those who are not familiar with these caves may easily lose their way running into dead ends or walking in circles within the maze.
Panmen Gate 盘门
Built in 514 BC, the City of Suzhou has 8 land-gates and 8 water-gates, one of which is named Panmen Gate, consisting of double-layer and-gate and water-gates abreast as well as an ambush area. Surrounded by the Grand Canal, ancient bridges, and Auspicious Light Pagoda瑞光塔 , the classical Gate Tower can provide the tourist with unique perspectives.
The Administrative Department of Panmen Gate, a famous ancient scenic spot in Suzhou, invested about 18 million yuan (US $ 2.2 million) to carry out comprehensive improvements to the environment. The improvements to the area included such things as planting trees, flowers and grass, clearing ponds, and installing lights. According to statistics from the department, approximately 100 trees were planted, more than 7,000 square meters increased the area lawn, and about 15,000 square meters of pond were cleaned. An additional 30,000 pots of flowers were made ready to decorate the scene, and more than 400 lights were installed. At the same time, the department reorganized their ticket sales office, did some interior decorating and planned new tour routes. The scenic area hopes to welcome visitors with an entirely new face.
Pavilion of the Surging Waves 沧浪亭
Encompassing 1.07 hectares (2.7 acres) Pavilion of the Surging Waves, one of the oldest existing gardens, is well known for its peaceful scenery and simple architecture. It was built in the period 1041 to 1048 in the Northern Song Dynasty more than 900 years ago by the poet Su Shunqin苏舜钦(Zimei子美 ) who had just lost his official position and decided to buy a small piece of land in Suzhou on which to built a residence. That part of land in Suzhou, which he chose was known for its beauty. The Garden is a fine example showing how the natural landscape both inside and outside could be merged. Long corridors follow the banks of the green water pond just outside the garden. Walking along the outer edges of these corridors the tourist feels as if s/ he was a part of the scenery outside the garden; the elderly men angle from platforms at the bends in the corridors. Turn toward the inner edge of the corridors and through the windows of the brick wall the tourist can See in the distance waving trees, bamboos and flowers among the rockeries and pavilions inside the garden.
Tuisiyuan (Retreat and Meditation Garden) 退思园
Tongli, together with Zhouzhuang and Luzhi, are famous as the “three water towns of Jiangsu Province.” “Tong” and “Li” are actually a reconstitution of two other characters, “fu” and “tu.” Tongli was called Futu, or “the wealthy land,” from the 11th century. In those 10 centuries, famous scholars, retired government officials and successful businessmen all lived here.
Today’s Tongli dwellings were adapted from those lush private gardens. Some are now fine hotels run by local people. For example, Ren Lansheng, an official of the Qing Dynasty, was demoted to the town and built the famous Tuisiyuan. The name of the tiny but beautiful Garden means, “Retreat and Meditation.” (When in office, one should be royal to the emperor, when away from office, one should meditate upon his previous faults. This was the motto of Chinese officials in imperial times, hence the name) It is also fun to hire a boat and sail through the network of canals of Tongli under the town’s 49 stone bridges. Tongli is very small for a weekend tour, but it is great for a weekend holiday.
Tongli boasts splendid scenery and rich cultural relics, especially its ancient architecture. Being historically separated from the outside world by five lakes has made its access to the outside difficult, but it allowed the town to preserve its numerous ancient buildings. Fifteen streams divide the town into seven blocks, and 49 elegant stone bridges link the blocks together, with so many cultural treasures and such a unique scene.
Zhouzhuang-Oriental Venice 周庄-东方威尼斯
Located to the east of Suzhou, the town of Zhouzhuang, was first built by the King of the Wu in the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BC). Almost every piece of the ancient town is an art work. According to the Suzhou Tourism Bureau, they have invited all the best archaeologists in China to manage a deteriorating carved brick gate in Zhouzhuang, but none of them could handle the job. No living archaeologist has mastered this ancient skill. The bedrooms of Zhouzhuang residents remain cool even in the hottest season, thanks to the mysterious structure of the old houses. Their windows are inlaid not with glass, but with polished shells. The town benefits from the beauty of rivers and lakes. The town is on Dianshan Lake of the Grand View Garden near Shanghai. The 14 ancient bridges on the river were built during the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Residents of the ancient town built houses and streets along the river. Over 60 per cent of the town’s houses date back to the early Ming Dynasty. Over recent years, more and more tourists have been coming to this town.
Tiger Hill 虎丘
Outside Suzhou at Tiger Hill an ancient king of Wu Kingdom named He Lu 阖闾 in the late years of the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BC) is said to have been buried some 2,500 years ago with his treasures such as three thousand famous swords, stores of gold and jade. One hundred thousand civilians were involved in the construction of the tomb. Elephants were used for transporting stones and earth. It took three years to complete the tomb. The tomb was built in secret and its entrance is still undiscovered. Legend relates that Emperor Qinshihuang and Sun Quan of Eastern Wu dispatched personnel to the Tiger Hill and chiseled to search for the tomb and its buried treasures but nothing was found. Later the place for chiseling became a deep pool, hence the name of Sword Pool.
The most famous scenic spot is Huqiu Pagoda, which was built on the top of the Tiger Hill over a thousand years ago. Construction of the pagoda began in 959 and was completed in 961. From the Southern Song Dynasty to1860 the pagoda caught fire on seven occasions. The top of the pagoda and eaves of the pagoda’s each storey were destroyed, only the brick structure remains. The 47-meter-high pagoda is tilting now at an angle of 2.48 degrees. It has become a kind of trademark of Suzhou. People can find its image on food packages, tickets and on local T-shirts. If the tourist stands on the hill and looks down at Jianchi (Sword Pond), s /he may feel a little frightened, though it is not very deep. The king’s tomb is at the bottom of the pond as well as two of his favourite swords, because the king was a sword collector when he was living. Romantic local people seem to have attached a legend to everything in Huqiu. Legend has it that the huge stone has been cut by a sword, another stone is said to be able to understand people reading Buddhist scriptures, and water from the hill seems to cure eye trouble.
More About Jiangsu Province
- Nanjing Introduction
Located in the lower Yangtze River drainage basin and Yangtze River Delta economic zone, Nanjing has long been one of China's most important cities.
- Suzhou Introduction
Suzhou known for its resplendent gardens and beautiful scenery.
- Yangzhou Introduction
Yangzhou dates back to more than 2,500 years ago.
- Zhenjiang Introduction
Zhenjiang is situated in the central part of Jiangsu Province at the confluence of the southern Yangtze River and the Grand Canal.