Tongli Water Town
Originally named Futu (meaning a rich land), Tongli Water Town (同里) is one of the “Top Six Ancient Towns in Jiangnan (Regions South of Yangtze River)” in China with a long history of over 1,000 years. Located on the eastern shore of Taihu Lake, just 11 miles (18 kilometers) from Suzhou City, the town is 24 square miles (63 square kilometers) in the area and has a population of over 33 thousand. Tongli is a perfect place to savor the authentic flavor of an old water town in China and the real leisure life of the charming Jiangnan (江南) region. where you can spend a marvelous holiday or experience traditional Chinese culture. Follow this introduction and you will have a general idea of this captivating water-town.
Enjoying the advantageous location of being surrounded by water and linked by old stone bridges, Tongli is the symbol of a water town in southern China. Therefore, it is regarded as the “Oriental Venice” as well as a “Natural Photo Studio” by people from the whole world. Moreover, it still well keeps a series of ancient structures from the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, like the “Retreat & Reflection Garden (退思园)” which is a World Cultural Heritage Site praised by many poets.
To explore the real charm of Tongli Water Town, you can not only roam along the old streets and rivers but also visit famous spots such as the Retreat & Reflection Garden, Gengle Hall, Pearl Tower, Three Bridges, etc.
Besides, there are many other interesting places to visit in Tongli Water Town, like Jiayin Hall (嘉荫堂) with beautiful design and gauze-cap-like beam decorations, Chongben Hall (崇本堂) with exquisite sculptures, Mingqing Street (明清街) with various local food and shops, Luoxing Island (罗星洲) with fabulous natural scenery, etc., and you can spend more time to discover the deeper beauty of Tongli!
Best Seasons: All Seasons
Recommended Visiting Time: One day
Opening Time: all-day
Address: Tongli Town, Wujiang District, Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province 江苏省苏州市吴江区同里镇
Retreat & Reflection Garden
Retreat & Reflection Garden or Tuisi Garden (退思园) has been listed as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO. This garden was built between 1885 and 1887 by Ren Lansheng (任兰生) who was relieved of his office as a government official for his corruption. He named this place “Tui Si Yuan” to introspect himself. In Tui si Garden, you can feel the very ancient charm of the historic wood buildings. However, you will be surprised to find the very fantastic water garden hidden in, where pavilions, corridors, bridges, halls, houses, rockeries, pools, old trees, lovely flowers, adorable fishes, etc., are all very harmonious and nice in this secret garden. Walking along the stone-paved path or standing on the pavilion of rockeries, you can appreciate the especially terrific sightseeing of the natural and traditional garden. For its amazing beauty, there is a Tuisi Zhuang (退思庄) in the botanic garden in New York, US, which is built according to Tuisi Garden, which completely demonstrates that the Chinese garden has already got popularity in the entire world.
Gengle Hall (耕乐堂, Happy Farming Hall) in the middle section of Lujiadai (陆家埭) is a super ancient building in Tongli Water Town. Built-in Ming dynasty in the traditional structure of residence in the front and garden in the back, you can appreciate the more ancient houses in this hall. In the residence area, there are abundant root carving works of various shapes exhibited in the house, such as the eagle, the flower tree, the figures, the lion, and so forth. When you come to the water garden, you can enjoy the very clear pool with red fishes, antique winding stone bridges above the water, old houses with traces of weathering, pretty blue sky. Every blink will present you with a distinct visual feast!
The Pearl Tower
The Pearl Tower (珍珠塔) in Tongli Water Town is not a tower but a mansion. It is famous for the love story named “Pearl Tower” taking place in this official censor’s mansion. According to the story, Fang Qing (方卿) and Chen Cui’e (陈翠娥) loved each other very much but faced the dilemma of their disparate family status. After the great effort to be awarded the title of “First Scholar” and returning hometown with a reputation, Cui‘e and he finally got married. Visiting the Pearl Tower, you can admire the ancient houses and the wide water garden to be amazed at the charm of the old water town and feel this famous love story.
The Three Bridges
The Three Bridges (三桥) in Tongli refers to the Taiping Bridge (太平桥), Jili Bridge (吉利桥), and Changqing Bridge (长庆桥), which is one of the must-see highlights in Tongli Water Town. Forming a shape like the character “品” in Chinese, the Three Bridges is the treasure place in Tongli. You could see people walking on the bridges and boats running below. Especially during festivals, there will be very busy and jubilant, because local people treat it very auspicious and are happy to walk along the Three Bridges. So you can follow the custom to get more good fortunes and a better body by walking along the Jili Bridge, Taiping Bridge, and Changqing Bridge for one round without going back.
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