Suzhou Journals

Suzhou - The Garden City

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A May 2005 trip to Suzhou by Re Carroll

The Venice of the East Photo, Suzhou, China More Photos
Quote: An hour’s train ride from Shanghai brought us to Suzhou, home of gardens and canals. With over 70 formal gardens, as well as a maze of scenic canals, Suzhou has a romantic, relaxed atmosphere that appeals to gardeners as well as those horticulturally challenged.

Suzhou - The Garden City

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Overview

The Venice of the East Photo, Suzhou, China
Quote:
Suzhou is best known for the myriad gardens spread throughout the city. Even the The Friendship Hotel got into the act with a classical Chinese courtyard, complete with a little stream and stone bridge.Only a dozen or so gardens are open to the public, but we knew we didn’t have time to see them all. We chose four and then managed to sneak a fifth into our schedule. Picking a favourite was impossible - although there were a few similar features, overall, each garden was unique and well deserving of accolades.Comparisons to Italy are frequently made in regards to Suzhou. It has been called The Venice of the East because of the numerous canals that ring the city centre, and there i...Read More

The Friendship Hotel

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Hotel

The Friendship Hotel Photo, Suzhou, China
Quote:
Friendship is located along one of Suzhou’s many canals. When it was built 20 years ago, it was one of the city’s top hotels and is still a very pleasant place to stay. Staff look very professional with their green-and-gold silk uniforms and do all they can to assure a comfortable stay.The front-desk clerk took us to look at a room on the third floor. Although this was one of their best rooms, with light walls and duvets on the twin beds, the mattresses were just too hard for us, so we asked to see another room. Unfortunately, the beds in the second room were just as hard and we thought we’d have to look elsewhere for a hotel. The clerk, however, was determined to find us a softer bed, so she ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 14, 2005

The Friendship Hotel
Zhuhui Rd.
Suzhou, China 215007
(0512) 5205218

Zhong Shan Hotel

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Hotel

Zhong Shan Hotel Photo, Suzhou, China
Quote:
Located on one of Suzhou’s main streets, the Zhong Shan is reminiscent of a bygone era. Although not as well maintained as Shanghai’s famous Peace Hotel, the Art Deco lobby is a masterpiece of marble, stained glass, and brass door lintels.Rooms are large, with twin beds and high ceilings, but could use a new coat of paint and brightening up. Our room was air-conditioned but also had windows that opened to let in fresh air, which was a nice treat. This was one of the few hotels that didn’t have a kettle for tea, but there was an urn filled with water, which we were assured had been previously boiled, since the tap water in China is not recommended for drinking. There was no minibar, but a large...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 14, 2005

Zhong Shan Hotel
1585 Renmin Lu
Suzhou, China
680 16008

Tiger Hill

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Attraction | "Tiger Hill Park"

Tiger Hill Photo, Suzhou, China
Quote:
Tiger Hill Park is advertised as the #1 sight in Suzhou. It is certainly the tallest, since it sits atop a large hill on the outskirts of town. Legend says that in 496 BC, King He Lu was killed in battle and his son buried him in the highest hill in the area. Three days after the funeral, a white tiger appeared to guard his tomb, hence the name Tiger Hill.I liked this park – it was very natural without the primping and manicured formal look of other spots in Suzhou. The main sights are located in a central area accessed by stairs from the ticket booth, but the park is spread over a large area, with walking trails that take you into the forest and away from the crowds. It was easy to find a qu...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 14, 2005

Tiger Hill
Tiger Hill
Suzhou, China

The Lion Grove

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Attraction

The Lion Grove Photo, Suzhou, China
Quote:
Lion Grove was originally established by Buddhist monks in 1342 AD to honour their teacher, Zhongfeng. In the 1700s, Emperor Qianlong was so impressed with these gardens that he replicated them in Beijing and Chengde. Over the centuries, the gardens changed ownership a number of times and fell into disrepair until 1918, when a wealthy industrialist revived it and later donated it to the newly formed People’s Republic of China. The gardens have all the standard features you’d expect in a Chinese garden, water, paths, greenery, pavilions, and terraces, but what sets them apart is the artful placement of limestone rock groupings that have created interesting shapes throughout the garden, as well as...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 14, 2005

The Lion Grove
23 Yulin Lu Rd.
Suzhou, China

Master of the Nets Garden Cultural performance

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Attraction | "Master of the Nets"

Master of the Nets Garden Cultural performance Photo, Suzhou, China
Quote:
This garden is a case of less is more. It is one of the smallest residential gardens in Suzhou but has been so cleverly laid out that it seems much bigger. The entrance to the garden is off Shiquan Jie and through a back alley. The alley was rather worn and dingy looking, and if it wasn’t for the few rough signs for Master of the Nets, we would have sworn we were lost.Designed in the mid 1100s, the garden was renamed Master of the Nets during the late 1800s. Supposedly, at that time, the owner of the house, a government official, was so frustrated with bureaucracy that he stated he would rather be a fisherman than a bureaucrat. I doubt he’d be surprised to learn that in this day and age, b...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 14, 2005

Master of the Nets Garden Cultural performance
Central Suzhou
Suzhou, China

Humble Administrator’s Garden

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Attraction | "Humble Administrator's Garden"

Humble Administrator’s Garden Photo, Suzhou, China
Quote:
This is one of Suzhou’s most popular gardens, especially with tour groups, so we expected it to be busy and crowded. It is also Suzhou’s largest private garden, so, although there were lots of people when we were there, we didn’t notice the crowds at all.The garden was built around 1513 by a retired government official. I’ve heard two versions around the naming of the garden – some say the official had been demoted in his job and building the gardens was a way of making amends. Others say the name comes from an essay about the simple life of a humble man. Either way, there is nothing humble about this garden.Typical of a classical garden of the Ming Dynasty, the central theme is water, ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 14, 2005

Humble Administrator’s Garden
North-east part of city
Suzhou, China

Panmen Gate

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Attraction

Panmen Gate Photo, Suzhou, China
Quote:
Originally called the Grand City of He Lu (the king who was buried at Tiger Hill), Suzhou is over 2,500 years old. He Lu built Suzhou to dominate the Central Plains, and the gates were used for defense on the canals that linked Suzhou to the rest of China. Of the eight land and water gates built during that time, Panmen Gate is the only one still in existence.We didn’t realize that the gate is now part of a park with an admission fee of 25 yuan, nor did we realize there was much more to the park than just the gate. In fact, the park houses national, provincial, and municipal monuments, as well as scenic and relaxing gardens.Near the entrance is the Ruiguang (Auspicious Light) Pagoda, a...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 14, 2005

Panmen Gate
Southwestern corner of Suzhou
Suzhou, China