Suzhou, the second largest city in the Jiangsu Province of East China, contains over 2,500 years worth of history in several forms. Known primarily for the extensive gardens and beautiful scenery, Suzhou is located Northwest of Shanghai. Often dubbed the “Venice of the East” or “Venice of China” due to its canals, it has grown to be one of the most popular destinations in China.
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Suzhou, East China
Founded in 514 B.C, Suzhou is situated on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and shores of Lake Tai, belonging to the Yangtze River Delta region. Around 100 A.D, Suzhou became one of the ten largest cities in the world most prominently due to emigration from North China, and has continued to grow since then. Suzhou exhibits many different displays of historical significance through out the city, and is most known for the Classical Gardens of Suzhou. A group of gardens spread through out Suzhou, the Classical Gardens of Suzhou are featured on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The gardens span a period of almost 1,000 years and were mostly built by scholars. The structures found within the Classical Gardens of Suzhou standardized many of the common and classical features of the Chinese Garden design: a landscape style of gardening.
The Classical Gardens of Suzhou, according to UNESCO, are “the most refined form” of garden art; currently Suzhou has a total of 69 preserved gardens designated as protected “National Heritage Sites”, though only 8 of the finest Suzhou gardens garner the title as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Humble Administrator’s Garden is one of these not to be missed on a trip to Suzhou, and seen as one of the most popular of the city’s gardens. The largest of its kind in the city, the Humble Administrator’s Garden contains copious pavilions and bridges among a maze of connected pools and islands. The garden houses in total 48 different buildings with 101 tablets, 21 old inestimable trees, and over 700 Suzhou-style penjing or penzai: the ancient Chinese art of depicting artistically formed trees and landscapes in miniature form.
The Lingering Garden is another well-known and regarded garden part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site; it actually stores two UNESCO Intangible Heritage Arts: Shuochang, a form of Chinese storytelling and Guqin, a seven stringed Chinese instrument. The garden is divided into four distinct sections, and the buildings found on the property occupy one third of the entire area! Noted artist Zhou Binhzong crafted the grotto, a main feature of the central section of The Lingering Garden constructed of yellowstone granite. Make sure to stroll through the Eastern section of the garden where you can find a collection of scholar stonesand courtyards. Among the finest gardens in Suzhou, and on the UNESCO World Heritage list, is The Master of the Nets Garden, located in the Gusu district. The gardens are located in the western section of the property with the east being residential quarters. The garden uses an architectural and landscaping technique known as “close to the water,” or when small buildings are set directly over the water on a structure while large buildings are separated from the area; it works to obscure their size and give the Rosy Cloud Pool the illusion of being larger.
There is more history to Suzhou than just its gardens. The Grand Canal, or officially titled The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, is the largest man-made waterway in the world at approximately 1,200 miles from top to bottom. Over 50 miles of Suzhou’s scenery flank the canal, including two of Suzhou’s biggest prides: The Hanshan Temple and The West Garden Temple. The Hanshan Temple, which translates to “Cold Mountain Temple”, is a Buddhist monastery and temple famed in eastern Asia due to the poem “A Night Mooring by Maple Bridge,” written by a Tang Dynasty poet. The poem is still popularly read, and is even included in primary school curriculum. The West Garden Temple, officially known as Xiyuan Temple, is known for its statues Arhat Hall and Free Life Pond. Notably, two long-life Asian Giant Softshell Turtles lived on the property, with one even living to be 400 years old.
A popular destination for over hundreds of years, known for its natural beauty, and worth seeing in Suzhou, is Tiger Hill. With a height of 118 feet, Tiger Hill is rich with history and ever-changing breathtaking scenery; sporting impressive rocks and deep dales, Tiger Hill is also home to legend beginning with its name. It is rumored to be the burial site of the Wu King’s father; three days after the burial a white tiger appeared to guard the tomb atop the hill. This is where the name Tiger Hill originates. The Sword Pool is believed to be situated above the tomb of the Wu King Helu. Another legend of the area, the King is believed to be buried with his vast collection of precious swords. Rectangular in shape, the pool is roughly 45 meters wide and 6 meters deep. The water never dries up, and is painstakingly clear. The Testing Stone is said to have been split by a storied sword of extraordinary sharpness. The Yunyan Pagoda, unofficially known as the Tiger Hill Pagoda, bears the nickname the “Leaning Tower of China” do to its 3 degree lean caused by the cracking of two of the structure’s support columns. Compromised of seven stories and built with a masonry structure designed to imitate the wooden structured pagodas common at the time, The Yunyan Pagoda rises to a height of 154 ft. Elements of the original Pagoda dating back to its founding in 327 can be found through out the Tiger Hill property.
Suzhou’s museums are another one of the city’s historical gems. The Suzhou Museum is made up of ancient Chinese art of all categories, from paintings and calligraphy to handmade crafts. The museum is free to all, and houses over 15,000 pieces in its elaborate collection. The Suzhou Museum also has in its possession over 70,000 scripts and books as well as over 20,000 rubbings of stone inscriptions. The Suzhou Silk Museum is another great educational center, documenting the history of the production of silk in Suzhou. Some of the exhibits include ancient silk sample patterns, old looms with demonstrations, and until 2009 the museum had a room full of live silk worms that could be seen spinning cocoons and eating mulberry leaves; this was replaced with a model.
History is everywhere in Suzhou, even on the shopping streets. Spend an afternoon perusing Guanqian Street; located in the city center, Guanqian Street is home to a Grand Taoist Building group with over 1,300 years of history. A blend of Suzhou culture and commercial business, the street itself is even named after the temple Xuanmiao found on the premises, and has been honored as one of the four most famous walking streets in China. Shops that have existed in Suzhou for centuries can be found on this street such as Huang Tian Yuan, a local shop known for its tasty rice cakes offered in a variety of flavors. Songhelou Restaurant originally founded in 1737 offers a dish known as Songshu Guiyu, or “Squirrel Fish” in Chinese. Known nation wide, this popular dish of fried de-boned fish is dressed in sweet and sour sauce and resembles a squirrel, hence its name.
A trip to Suzhou with Stunning China will not disappoint. Full of history and culture, Suzhou is a destination everyone should check off their travel list.
High Speed Train(Beijing-Suzhou)
Airport pickups and drop-offs
English-speaking tour guides
Daily escorted tour to listed tourists sites
Admission Fees to tourists sites
4.5 star Hotels with breakfasts
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