I. Suzhou, Venice in the Orient 1. Panmen Gate 2. Grand Canal 3. Shantang Street 4. Scenic Hill and Lake 5. Well and Bridge
1. Panmen Gate Situated in the southwestern corner of the city, Panmen Gate was called the Coiled Dragon Gate in ancient times. Remains of the wall, watchtower, walled ambush area, roadway and land and water gates still exist. It is an important cultural site of the old city of Suzhou. 2,500 years old, this city gate is the most completely preserved part of the ruins of the ancient city of Suzhou. Stepping onto the top of the gate, you can see the Wumen Gate Bridge and the Auspicious Light Pagoda, which are popularly known as the Three Scenes of the Panmen Gate.
2. Grand Canal Suzhou has still preserved its 2,500 year old ancient hydro- system. In greater Suzhou, 42% of the area is covered by water. Most part (four-fifths) is the Taihu Lake, one of the four major freshwater lakes in China and the famous ancient wonder, the Grand Canal, both run through the city. The Yangtze River also skirts the city. The Jinji (the Golden Rooster) Lake area in the eastern part of the city reveals Suzhou’s modern image, while the city moat forms the boundary line of the old town. The Grand Canal flows by Wuxi on the northwest and western parts of the city of Suzhou on its way to Hangzhou, facilitating the transport between China’s north and south and forming a unique travel route which includes picturesque canal scenes, old bridges, old temples, old townships, and old cities.
3. Shantang Street Beginning from Changmen Gate in the east and ending at Tiger Hill in the west, the street is 3,829.6 m long. It was built and opened in the first year of the Baoli reign of the Tang Dynasty by Bai Juyi, a regional inspector to Suzhou. Shantang Street, originally called the Revered Bai’s Embankment, connects historic Tiger Hill with the bustling commercial area around Changmen Gate. Shantang Street is a thousand-year-old street with a rich flavor of the Wu Kingdom culture, integrating residences, tourism, trade and arts and crafts. In the 17th and 18th century, each time Emperor Kangxi and Emperor Qianlong visited the south, they would come to Tiger Hill and Shantang Street. Besides, Shantang Street is the prototype of the Suzhou Street in the Summer Palace in Beijing.
4. Scenic Hill and Lake Tiger Hill, Tianchi Hill, Dengwei Hill and Gionglong Hill are famous for their scenic splendor. The cultural sites at the celebrated Tiger Hill can be traced back to the Spring-Autumn Period when the Kingdom of Wu existed here. Ruins of the mysterious Wu Palace can be found in Lingyan Hill. Legends about the hill are numerous, kindling worshipers’ imagination. The awe-inspiring Tianchi Hill has a rich cultural flavor. Innumerable people from all walks of life and from the past to the present have come to pay their respect to Fan Zhongyan and let their souls be baptized and purified by his great saying of “being the first to raise concern and the last to enjoy comforts under the sun”.
5. Well and Bridge In Suzhou, there are still 639 ancient wells under controlled protection. In the past, wells were the necessaries of life, now the daily function of wells has gradually faded away. Covered by a pavilion, the Twin Wells of the Southern Song Dynasty with limestone protection around them are found in Houbu Village on the Dongting West Hill. Surrounded by a rectangular stone protection, a double well named the Happiness and Longevity Well, is found in Cang Street in the eastern part of the city of Suzhou.
Of all Chinese cities, Suzhou has the most bridges as well as the most densely located bridges. Pingjiang (Suzhou) Map inscribed on a Song Dynasty stele shows that there were as many as 359 bridges in the urban area of only 1459 km. Built in the Tang Dynasty across the Grand Canal, the Precious Belt Bridge is the longest bridge existing in China. With 53 stone arches, it resembled a jade belt floating on the water and linked roads on the north and the south.