located in the south of
Jiangsu province, some 50 miles
west of Shanghai, along the old Grand Canal. The city has been
famous for its gardens for many centuries. According to a Chinese
proverb says: “In heaven there is paradise. On earth there are
Suzhou and Hangzhou.” Suzhou has also long been noted for its
beautiful women. The city is dotted with lakes and ponds connected
by a spider's web of canals. And all the canals are lined with
whitewashed houses with gray-tiled roofs.
The canals of the town eventually join up with the famous local
waterway known as the Grand Canal, located to the west of the city.
It is believed to be the largest internal waterway in the world, and
was originally constructed to carry tribute grain from the Yangzi
plain to the capital. Marco Polo, who visited Suzhou in the 13th
century, wrote that “the great Khan... has made a huge canal of
great width and depth from river to river and from lake to lake and
made the water flow along it so that it looks like a big river. By
this means it is possible to go ... as far as Khan-balik” (as
Beijing was known in the Yuan Dynasty). Although the canal is not
used for long-distance transport today, it is still heavily used by
a great number of flat-bottomed boats under sail and engine power
conveying agricultural produce to nearby towns.
The Grand Canal
Suzhou is one of the oldest towns in the Yangzi basin. It was
founded in the fifth century B.C., when the King of Wu, He Lu, made
it the capital of his Kingdom. The King is said to be buried on
Tiger Hill, a well-known landmark.
The town inherited its current name in 589, in the Sui Dynasty, and
underwent considerable development in the Tang and Song dynasties.
As early as the Song Dynasty, Suzhou had about the same size as it
is today. Some of the city’s famous gardens were first established
in those days as well, when Suzhou had already become famous for
Many of the famous gardens built as early as the 10th century are
still intact, and some have been restored to their former beauty. A
visit to these gardens could be one of the highlights of one’s visit
to China. (Click for more about the Beijing - Hangzhou Grand Canal)
Tiger Hill, or Hu Qiu, a few miles northwest of the town, is very
popular among visitors. It is supposedly the burial place of the
King of Wu.
Two different reasons are given for the name of the hill. One is
that the entrance gate resembles the mouth of a tiger, and the
pagoda on the top of the hill its tail. The other is that when the
King of Wu was buried on top of the hill, a tiger is said to have
On top of the hill is an imposing structure--the pagoda of the Yun
Yan (Cloud Rock) Temple built in 961. It is listed as one of the
special historical sites under State protection. The temple
courtyard is the highest point on the hill and commands a grand
Cold Mountain Temple (Hanshansi)
The temple is located on the outskirts of Suzhou on a small canal
crossed by an old humpbacked bridge. Green foliage hangs down over
the saffron walls. The beautiful scenery has inspired many poets
throughout history to write memorable poems. In fact, it owes its
fame to the poem “Overnight Stay at Feng Qiao” by Zhang Ji, a Tang
The temple's name comes from the hermit Han Shan, a Buddhist poet,
sometime during the Tang Dynasty.
Pagodas in Suzhou
Suzhou has many pagodas, the most conspicuous being the twin pagodas
at the Twin Pagoda Temple, or Shuangtasi. The temple no longer
exists, and the site is now occupied by a school.
On the outskirts of town, in the southwest, one can find the Temple
of Good Omen Light, or Ruiguangsita. The temple no longer exists.
Only the seven-story brick pagoda remains.
Another pagoda stands beside what was once the Temple of Gratitude,
or Paoensi, also known as the Northern Temple, or Bei Si. The temple
was founded in the third century A.D., and has since been destroyed
and rebuilt several times. All that remains today is the nine-story
pagoda thought to date from the 13th century.
Gardens in Suzhou
Suzhou is best known for its landscaped gardens, over 150 of them.
Suzhou’s gardens are not known for their size, but their delicate
designs, containing hills and ponds, terraces, corridors, towers,
and almost everything that is needed in an “imperial garden.” Among
them, the Liu Garden, which covers about 10 acres, is the largest
and one of the most attractive. It was one of the few gardens that
escaped destruction during the Taiping Rebellion in the mid-19th
The garden was first laid out during the Ming Dynasty by a civil
servant who also had the West Garden, or Xi Yuan, constructed.
Lake Scenic Spot, Suzhou
Situated close to Suzhou Industrial District, Jinji Lake is a
beautiful scenic spot, featuring a maple forest, music fountain,
water screen movies all amid other natural and cultural settings. It
is a good illustration of urban ecological preservation and leisure
From 2002 to 2004, the city of Suzhou city updated 48 free scenic
spots along both sides of the river. Take a boat ride and you will
find yourself float in a roll of paintings.
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