TRAVEL: Suzhou, Jiangsu

Visited June 13 2010.

Looking Out at the Humble Administrator's Garden

Looking Out at the Humble Administrator's Garden

Attractions Checklist:

  • The Humble Administrator’s Garden
  • Suzhou Museum
  • Tiger Hill

During our visit to China we had the opportunity of taking a day trip to Suzhou from Shanghai. The China Railway High-Speed (CRH) system is very convenient—the overall trip took approximately 1 hour for an 80-km distance and cost 31 Yuan ($5.20 in American dollars) one-way. From the train station, we entered Suzhou by bus and witnessed the unfolding scene of a city upon the water. The city is divided north to south by the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal and covered by ponds and lakes.

Suzhou is located within the wealthy Jiangsu province—a region located south of the Yangtze River. Throughout history, this region was the hub of commercial development ranging from crop cultivation to silk embroidery production. Today, Suzhou is a major port for electronics. As a result of the commercial growth, literati families had more opportunities to become educated in the arts and literature. The fruits of their knowledge survive today not only in the forms of published literature but in majestic gardens built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). These gardens were considered a form of art: the dual effect of Chinese painting and poetry.

The Humble Administrator's Garden

The Humble Administrator's Garden

The Humble Administrator’s Garden is a famous sight in Suzhou and is considered one of the four famous gardens in China. Like many Chinese gardens, architecture is combined with landscaping to produce a metaphorical message. Aesthetic rock formations and sculptures that decorate the Chinese garden are often curvaceous and may contain many holes; rocks represent the mountains. Pathways and covered corridors through the garden are often winding and zigzagging to allow the viewer to enjoy different scenery from different angles and to relax in places of repose. Pavilions are places where viewers can enjoy garden scenery and take refuge from snow and rain. They are built by ponds, which represent water—an element of feng shui.

Suzhou Museum

Suzhou Museum

In the Pingjiang area of Suzhou, there is the Suzhou Museum. Built by the Chinese-American architect, I.M. Pei, in 2006, this modern museum houses several artifacts from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Upon leaving the museum, one walks along the bridge over a koi pond filled with lily pads.

Our last visit was to the scenic Tiger Hill, so named because the hill looks like a crouching tiger.

Tiger Hill Scenic Area

Tiger Hill Scenic Area

Tiger Hill Pagoda

Tiger Hill Pagoda

Known for its natural beauty, Tiger Hill is also known for the legend of a white tiger that appeared on the hill to guard the burial of King Helü (reigned 514–496 B.C.E.) of the state of Wu from the Spring and Autumn Period prior to the Qin dynasty (256-206 B.C.E.). This scenic site has been popular throughout history often appearing in the poems of traveling scholars, who commend this place as a must-see in Suzhou. Many of the sights seen here have a story behind them that are well-known.

Upon leaving Tiger Hill, we passed by stores selling beautiful silk dresses in the Chinese formal styles and Western styles. My cousin, Yick, explained that many brides come to Suzhou to buy their dresses, because Suzhou is renowned for their embroidery and handiwork with silks. It was here I bought my Chinese dress– qipao.

Additional Comments

Since there are other water towns within Suzhou, I am looking forward to a return visit to see these sights. I also am interested in exploring the industrial district, where there has been a lot of commercial development. It is clear that when I return Suzhou will be different from the one I have seen on this trip.

Acknowledgments

  • Yick, my paternal cousin, for a lively tour in Shanghai and Suzhou
  • My dear Aunt Standing-in-the-Snow and Uncle Glorious China for their company

Resources

Imperial Tours. (2011, May 1). Literati Gardens: Design and Purpose of a Chinese Garden. Retrieved from http://www.imperialtours.net/suzhou_garden.htm

Suzhou Museum. (2011, May 2). Suzhou Museum. Retrieved from http://www.szmuseum.com/szbwgen/index.html

Wikipedia. (2011, May 21). Suzhou. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Suzhou&oldid=430207266

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