Suzhou Tourist Attractions
Top Tourist Attractions in Suzhou
Suzhou lies south of the river delta of the Chiangjian on the eastern bank of the Taihu Lake in the southeast of Jiangsu province. It is a good hour by train from Shanghai, four hours from Nanjing and sixteen hours from Beijing.
A dense network of roads connects it with other cities in the province and also with Shanghai and Hangzhou. As the city is on the Imperial Canal Suzhou can offer tourists the possibility of a short cross-country cruise as far as Hangzhou.The Imperial Canal is one of the many canals which flow through the city and which have given it the title of ''Venice of the East''. Suzhou is also famed for its gardens which gave it another name, ''Heaven on Earth''. It has always been one of the most important centers of the Chinese silk industry, and its silk embroideries are famous. Cotton, chemical and light industries are today no longer important.HistorySuzhou is over 2500 years old. He Lu, the ruler of the Wu state, proclaimed Suzhou as capital of the empire in 484 BC, and in 514 BC he built a defense wall surrounding the city; this is no longer in existence. According to some old documents the wall was 23.5m/70ft long and had sixteen gates. Despite numerous urban attacks which took place throughout the centuries, the historic city center is barely unchanged in its plan. Of the eight gates, which are not situated by the water, only two have been preserved.From the 5th C onwards many civil servants, traders, and scholars settled here and laid out magnificent gardens to enhance the appearance of their houses. Suzhou developed into an economic and cultural center, mainly as a result of the building of the Imperial Canal in the 6th C.From the 14th C the silk industry transformed Suzhou into the richest town of southeast China and the second largest town in the country after Beijing. As place of residence for many rich officials it again became a nationally important center of culture and science up to the 19th C.
Temple of Secrets
The Daoist Temple of Secrets in the city center dates back to the second half of the 3rd C. The original buildings are no longer preserved; the complex was newly erected in the 12th C.
Hall of the Three Pure Ones
The main building is the Hall of the Three Pure Ones (Sanqing Dian) which was built in 1179 according to the plans of Zhao Boxiao. It is 45m/135ft long and 25m/75ft wide. The 1.75m/6ft high main altar is crowned with gilded earthenware statues of the three most important Daoist godheads, the jade emperor, the god of supreme cleanliness, and the god of superior cleanliness. The sculptures, which were finished in the 12th C are of particular artistic value.
Cold Mountain Temple Monastery
The Cold Mountain Temple Monastery is situated on the city's western edge on the banks of the Imperial Canal. In the Tang period (618-907) a poet sang the praises of the monastery: ''At the Monastery of the Cold Mountain, behind the city of Suzhou, my boat is moored, the bells strike midnight''.The site dates from the year 502, although the present buildings only came into existence in 1905. It is named after the prominent monk Hanshan (7th C).Items kept in the monastery include a few dozen stone tablets with inscriptions by well known personalities from earlier centuries.The bronze bell which hangs on the right hand side of the main hall is a reproduction of a lost bell from the Tang era.
Tiger Hill (Huqiu Hill)
The Tiger Hill on the northwestern edge of Suzhou, only 36m/118ft high covers an area of about 13ha/32 acres. 2500 years ago King He Lu (the ruler of the Wu state) was reportedly buried here with 3000 swords. A tiger is said to have guarded the grave, which accounts for the name of the hill.
Pagoda of the Cloud-Rock Temple
On the top of Tiger Hill towers the famous ''leaning tower'' of China, the Pagoda of the Cloud-rock Temple (Yunansi Ta), dating from 961. Four hundred years ago the 47.5m/155ft high building began to lean. For a long time the pagoda has been the emblem of Suzhou.
Second Hill Gate
At the foot of theTiger Hill stands the Second Hill Gate (Er Shanmen) from the Tang period (618-907), its supporting beams are not made from one single piece, which is why the hall is also known as the Hall of Broken Beams (Duanlinag Dian).
It is said that in the 3rd C attempts were made to unearth the swords of King He Lu without success. Digging caused a waterhole to be formed which was given the name Sword Lake (Jianchi).
North Temple Pagoda
The North Temple Pagoda, situated some 500m/1500ft to the west of the Garden of the Humble Administrator, was erected in the 12th C over the foundations of a 6th C pagoda. The octagonal brick and wooden building has galleries around it. There are good views from the upper floor.
There are several attractions in the Suzhou surrounding area.
Mountain of the Wonderful Rocks
In Mudu, 12km7mi from Suzhou, rises the 82m/269ft high Mountain of the Wonderful Rocks. It is known for its unusual and bizarre rock scenery.According to legend Fu Chai the king of the Wu empire lived here over two thousand years ago with his favorite concubine Xi Shi, who was said to be the most beautiful Chinese woman of all time. Even poets such as Li Bai and Bai Juyi who lived under Tang rule (618-907) believed in the legend and wrote exquisite verse about this mountain.
Duobao Ta Pagoda
The Duobao Ta Pagoda belonging to the Lingyan Si Temple dates from the 12th C and was restored in 1977.
Lingyan Si Temple
The Buddhist Lingyan Si Temple on the Mountain of the Wonderful Rocks was rebuilt in the years between 1919 and 1932.
Bridge of the Precious Belt
The Bridge of the Precious Belt, first built in 806, spans the Imperial Canal 3km/2mi to the southeast of Suzhou. It is 317m/951ft long and has 53 arches.
Map of Suzhou Attractions