Shanghai lies to the south east and the Yangtze River to the north. The city is divided by the Beijing–Hangzhou Grand Canal from north to south. 42% area of the city is covered by water, including a vast number of ponds and streams.. Built in 514 BC, this is an ancient city with over 2,500 years of history.Suzhou (苏州市) is located in southern Jiangsu Province in the center of the Yangtze Delta.
The mild climate makes the city a desirable destination all year round. At present more than 60 gardens are kept intact in the city, and some of them have been listed in the World Heritage List. The Humble Administrator’s Garden is one of China’s finest, and the centerpiece of a UNESCO World Heritage Site that comprises nine classical Suzhou gardens.
Humble Administrator’s Garden (Zhuo Zheng Yuan)
Being one of the four most famous gardens in China and the largest garden in Suzhou, the Humble Administrator’s Garden is a masterpiece of classical gardens in South Yangtze River region. The garden is divided into three sections and each has its own features. The delicate pavilions and corridors, windows of various shapes, along with winding paths fully represent the skillful techniques of ancient gardeners. Meanwhile, the names of most structures in the garden have a connotation, usually conveying the former owners’ wills or attitudes towards life.
A noted poet Su Shi in Song Dynasty (960-1279) once said, “It’s a lifelong pity if one visited Suzhou without going to the Tiger Hill”. From his words, we can know what Tiger Hill means to the city. It’s a luxuriant hill where the Tomb of King He Lu during the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC-476 BC) is located. Besides, it abounds in precious cultural relics, including the Tiger Hill Pagoda, Sword Testing Stone and Sword Pool. The Buddhism culture, excellent landscape, profound history background, as well as the legendry tales all contribute to the charm of Tiger Hill.
Lingering Garden (Liu Yuan)
First built in 1593 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the garden has a long history of more than 400 years. In the Lingering Garden, buildings, trees and flowers blend harmoniously with their surroundings. Liu Shu, one of the previous owners, was an enthusiast for stone collection. He collected many unusually-shaped lake stones in the garden, among which Guan Yun Feng is the most precious one and gains honor for the garden.
Shantang Street (Seven-Li Shantang)
Is an ancient riverside pedestrian road in northwest Suzhou, Jiangsu, is very popular with tourists. From Changmen Gate (the west gate of the ancient city) in the downtown, it winds northwest on the northern bank of the Shantang River, and ends at scenic Tiger Hill. It extends about 2.2 miles (seven li), hence the name ‘Seven-Li Shantang’. In 825, Bai Juyi, a renowned Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) poet, was transferred to Suzhou as the governor. There and then he inaugurated the Shantang River canal project. Later, a road parallel with the river on the north bank was constructed. These made Shantang block into a busy transport and commercial hub. The Shantang Street is cited as ‘the First Street in Suzhou’ mainly for three reasons: a history of nearly 1,200 years; representative of the local streets and alleys; and associated with distinguished people and events.
With history of over 2,500 years, Suzhou has a large abundance of local products to offer tourists. Suzhou-style embroidery, calligraphy, paintings, silk, fans, writing brushes and fans are for sale nearly everywhere in Suzhou.
What to Buy
Su embroidery is one of the four major styles of Chinese Embroidery. Vivid depictions of animals, people, landscapes and flowers are popular themes of Su embroidery. Traditional embroidery is blended with fashionable contemporary elements, yielding a style of embroidery that is appreciated by both Chinese people and foreigners. You can enjoy more exquisite Suzhou embroidery in the Su Embroidery Museum, which is at No.262, Jingde Road.
From ancient times, the silk produced in Suzhou has been considered among the best in China. As its name implies, Song Brocade, which is woven from the outstanding silk of Suzhou, is made in the style of the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Song Brocade, which is made in a variety of styles and serves many functions, is always elegantly designed and colored. If you want to learn more about the silk culture of the city and do some shopping, consider the Suzhou Silk Museum. It is located at No.2001 Renmin Road.
This is another of the fine handcrafts available in Suzhou. The traditional folding fans can be made of sandalwood or mandarin silk, while the newer style round fans are made of paper. They make good gifts.
Taohuawu Woodblock New Year Prints
Usually posted on exterior doors, Chinese New Year prints were originally used to exorcise the house of evil spirits. The combination of interesting subjects with woodblock printing helped this craft develop into a popular form of folk art. Incorporating auspicious themes that portray mother and child, local stories, religious motifs and well-known fables, Taohuawu Woodblock New Year Prints, which are internationally recognized, are created using a three-step process that requires the image to be drawn on paper, carved in the selected wood and then printed. You can purchase this traditional handcraft at No.190 Shantang Street.
Suzhou Writing Brush
Writing brush, ink stick, ink slab and paper are the four treasures of calligraphy in China. The special Huzhou writing brush that is currently produced in Suzhou, originated in Zhejiang Province. Brushes sold in the city today have incorporated a series of improvements, becoming a distinctive specialty of the area.
Biluochun green tea is produced in Wu County. It is one of the ten famous Chinese Teas and is noted for its smooth shape, fresh color, fragrant aroma and mellow taste. The best Biluochun tea leaves are picked during March and April, and the prepared tea leaves are curled like screws and covered with white fuzz. Production of authentic Biluochun tea is very limited, making it expensive and hard to find.
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