Written by MythMin on 05 Apr, 2006
The local beauty spot of ‘Tiger Hill’, said to be the number one tourist sight in Suzhou, lies to the west of the ancient city. This historical site goes back almost 2,500 years, and is lined by various ancient landmarks, from the foot of the…Read More
The local beauty spot of ‘Tiger Hill’, said to be the number one tourist sight in Suzhou, lies to the west of the ancient city. This historical site goes back almost 2,500 years, and is lined by various ancient landmarks, from the foot of the hill right to the very tip. Formerly known as the ‘Surging Sea Hill’, it was renamed after a white tiger was found sitting on the tomb of Wu King Helu, who was buried on top of this hill. This tiger appeared three days after the funeral of the Wu King, who died during the war against the Yue. From that time on, the hill became known as ‘Tiger Hill’.Upon walking up the hill from the entrance temple, the first historical sight we came across was the Broken Beam Temple. The uniqueness of this temple is that it has a slit all the way in the middle of the structure, but it still stands firm today. Furthermore, it is said to symbolize the Tiger Hill, as it was built in such a way to represent the face of a tiger.Walking through the Broken Beam Temple, and further up the hill, we passed the Han Han Spring, excavated by a Chinese tea expert who lived on the hill. He declared that the water from this particular spring was the third best in the whole of China. To preserve the clear water of the spring, the small well has been sealed shut. All that is left to be seen is a piece of rock with ‘Han Han Spring’ written on it in Chinese. Next to the spring is the Sword Testing Stone. King Helu was an ardent sword collector, and it is said that he used to test his rare swords upon this particular rock. Years of slicing and dicing resulted in a crevice on the rock, and is the only evidence to prove that these swords ever really existed. Further on up the hill lies the tomb of Zhenniang, a beautiful lady in ancient Suzhou. She committed suicide after being forced to marry a man she did not love, and a pavilion was built by the side of her tomb to commemorate her.Moving on, we came across a large open space known as the 1,000 Men Rock, and a small pool surrounded by a steep rocky wall (that looked like a dried up waterfall) known as the Sword Pool. Legend has it that King Helu was buried in the Sword Pool with nearly 3,000 swords as funerary objects. In order to prevent the secrets of the swords becoming known to anyone, all 1,000 men involved in the building of the tomb were killed on the 1,000 Men Rock as soon as the task was completed.A short walk further and we reached to summit of the Tiger Hill, where the Yunyan Temple Pagoda stands. Being the oldest pagoda in Suzhou, it became the symbol of the city. It was built during the Northern Song Dynasty from 959-961, and is slightly leaning over to one side. This seven story high pagoda is said to have been leaning towards the Northwest for almost 400 years!On the East side of the hill lies many other beautiful ancient landmarks like the Mahavira Temple, the 53 Steps of Stones, the Wanjing Villa with its bonsai trees and the Mountain Villa with 10,000 scenes. Nevertheless, due to the restrained time guided tours always imposed on us, we had to leave the picturesque hill through the North side, which I suppose is the fastest way out! It was not a complete waste though, as upon coming down the hill, we passed stunning scenes of ancient buildings, rivers and swaying trees that were picture postcard beautiful!The famous Song Dynasty poet, Su Dongpo quoted, "It would be a pity if you had been to Suzhou but did not visit the Tiger Hill". How true a statement for this hill that was made by the bare hands of men to bury a king! Close
Written by Barb in BC on 11 May, 2005
NUMBER ONE SILK FACTORY
A must for a visitor to Suzhou is Silk Factory Number One where it is possible to view silk production from worm to finished products before exiting through its huge silk store. We were given quite a build-up to this tour…Read More
NUMBER ONE SILK FACTORY
A must for a visitor to Suzhou is Silk Factory Number One where it is possible to view silk production from worm to finished products before exiting through its huge silk store. We were given quite a build-up to this tour by our local guide. As if the beauty, texture, weight and easy care of silk were not causes enough to make us want to shell out the bucks, we learned that silk duvets were healthy for us as well:
1) Silk emits small amino acids which relax the nervous system to provide better sleep.
2) Silk energizes the body and slows the aging process.
3) Silk sheds heat in the summer and retains it in winter, maintaining steady body temperature.
4) Silk is hypoallergenic and also repels the growth of mildew.
5) Silk breathes and is moisture resistant.
6) Silk smoothes human skin.
7) Silk retains warmth even when it is wet.
Wow! My money was burning a hole in my pocket! But first, the tour.
Silk worms grow fat on mulberry leaves and spin prize cocoons. The cocoons are harvested and sorted. Cocoons containing twin larvae are set aside to make duvet batting. The cocoons are boiled to kill the larvae and release the threads.
With bare hands in the steaming water, workers fish for starter strands on each single cocoon. Their hands are red and raw. They make 500 Yuen per month—less than $100 Canadian.
Each almost invisibly-fine strand stretches one mile (1.6 km). Strands from eight cocoons together create a thread the thickness of a human hair. This bundle is then attached a spindle upon which the silk thread is electrically wound. It takes 2000 cocoons to create one silk scarf.
Twin cocoons have strands so enmeshed that they cannot be separated or used for weaving into fabric. However they can be stretched to create a layer of batting for the duvets. These duvets are the particular specialty of Number One Silk Factory.
The process was fascinating, as was the fashion show staged at the inevitable end-of-tour shop, but several of us were glad to be free of all of this. We boiled for a buying binge after lining up to purchase our duvets. My king-sized one cost less that $100 Canadian. The bulk packing problem was solved by the folks at Number One Silk Factory. Packaged in plastic carry bags, the air was then sucked from the fluffy contents, reducing the gigantic duvets into suitcase-sized parcels about five centimetres thick. Like Suzhou tigers we prowled the first two rooms which were filled with sheets and coverings to complement those duvets.
The clothing department next beckoned. Now THIS was the place for which I had saved my splurge money. THIS was the place where I could justify my purchases. THIS was the place that offered practical products which were also beautiful representations of China--blouses, pajamas, robes, dresses, scarves, shirts, neckties, suits. Sadly, I soon discovered that clinging, sensuous silk did not ride well on my bulges. Furthermore, my size twelve was additionally labeled Extra-Extra Large in this land of pencil people! There were to be no sexy, silky clothes for me after all—perhaps I will make a patchwork muumuu out of the twenty scarves I bought instead.
SUZHOU – TIGER TOWN
A flight from Wuhan landed our group in Shanghai and we were bussed from there to Suzhou, about fifty miles west of Shanghai. Many were sniffling or coughing and others were dealing with stomach upsets that forced stops whenever a public…Read More
SUZHOU – TIGER TOWN
A flight from Wuhan landed our group in Shanghai and we were bussed from there to Suzhou, about fifty miles west of Shanghai. Many were sniffling or coughing and others were dealing with stomach upsets that forced stops whenever a public washroom appeared. We were a sorry-looking lot when we dragged ourselves off our bus for a late dinner at a sorry-looking restaurant near Suzhou. It had vinyl strips hung in the doorway to let in the breeze while discouraging flying bugs. The place was grungy and the staff had obviously stayed beyond normal hours to serve our tardy group. The bathrooms offered the stand-up variety only and they were filthy.
The Suzhou food specialty is barbequed pork hock. At a better hour in a cleaner place it would likely have appealed to all but the sick among us, but these factors worked against that fare on this occasion. Suzhou disappointed in both the quality of this restaurant and the quality of the hotel. The accommodation too was poorly prepared for our late arrival; luggage delivery was so disorganized that many of us wandered wearily through the halls for an hour or more in search of missing suitcases; and our beds were hard as granite slabs.
This town (pronounced Sue-JOE) was founded as the capital city of "Wu" 2500 years ago and is one of the oldest communities of the Yangtze River basin. The current name was adopted in 589 A.D. during the Sui Dynasty when the community was as large as it is today due to the local manufacture of silk. Suzhou silk even made its way to Rome along the famous Silk Road.
Suzhou has finer claims to fame. It is known as The Garden City because its centuries-old gardens are remarkable for their delicate configurations of hills and ponds, terraces, corridors, towers and everything else befitting an imperial garden. Its garden trees are aromatic and evergreen camphors, attractive gingko bilobas, and mulberries which provide the foodstuff for local silk worms. Tree trunks, as elsewhere, are often bound with protective rope. These trees thrive in the tropical climate of Suzhou which receives rain for 200 days each year. At 10 a.m. the temperature was already 31o C during our late-October visit.
Lingering Garden is a delightful example of perfectly planning. Even the name reflects the perfection. One definitely wants to linger there. The requisite mountains are far from Suzhou so pocked limestone boulders were hauled in to provided miniature mountains. Designed for the imperial family, living quarters were open to breezes and tucked among paved, winding byways. The paving itself is a pebble mozaic of good-fortune symbols like the crane, that represents long life.
On the Sunday of our visit, Lingering Garden brimmed with relaxing Chinese and roving performers. Unlike our rush through the Beijing Park on a similar Sunday, however, we were allowed more time to soak up the culture in the form of a remarkable tiger that leapt from pillar to post over seemingly impossible distances while simultaneously flirting with disaster and with the audience. The two young acrobats somehow managed to see their targets and achieve solid footing while covered in a cumbersome costume and while performing cat-like movements, including languid stretching, eye-batting and jaw chomping. The costume featured favourite Chinese colours—gold for wealth and red for good fortune.
We watchers were, for the most part, breathless from amazement and breath-holding. While we marveled aloud afterwards about this act, the whiner piped: "Is your mouth dry like mine? It must be from the MSG that these Chinese put in all of their food. I ate only bread this morning to avoid MSG, but my mouth is still dry. They must put it in the bread too." (Would she never find a thing to admire about this China—even in this lovely Lingering Garden?)
Written by MythMin on 22 Apr, 2006
In Kunshan City, in the Jiangsu Province, between Shanghai and Suzhou, lies the calm and charming ancient watertown of Zhou Zhuang. It is dubbed the "Venice of the East" for the canals that run through this quaint town, being its main source of water supply…Read More
In Kunshan City, in the Jiangsu Province, between Shanghai and Suzhou, lies the calm and charming ancient watertown of Zhou Zhuang. It is dubbed the "Venice of the East" for the canals that run through this quaint town, being its main source of water supply and transportation; as well as the traditional Chinese gondolas that glide along the waterways passing narrow lanes lined by ancient residential quarters and overhead stone bridges in its path. The quiet town of Zhou Zhuang is called home by mainly the elderly society, aging from 60 to 70 years old. Most of them come here to retire; either for its slow-moving lifestyle and tranquility or simply returning to their childhood roots. They spend their days people watching, playing mahjong, or just hanging around with friends drinking "Ah Po" Tea.
We only arrived at Zhou Zhuang in the evening, where the marketplace and most of the small shops along the waterways have closed for the day. The air was almost still and silent; all there was to be heard was the murmuring of the streams flowing under the bridges, splashes of the paddle from the Chinese gondolas passing along the waterways, and sounds of distant chatter from the locals sitting in the small stalls along the pathways. Despite the growing darkness, the town still managed to instill a sense of beauty and enchantment in me. A different side of ambiance encompasses the town at night; with red lanterns showing us the path through dim walkways and alleyways. My only regret being here at night was that we could not take any beautiful photographs.
We hopped into a traditional river boat, or Chinese gondola, for a short passage through the canal, enjoying the night view of the very first watertown in China. From the gondola far ahead we could hear the boatman singing… it was kind of spooky… plus, the sound of the hiding crickets that was much louder from the gondola. A few pointers to be noted while in Zhou Zhuang and when taking a ride on the riverboats: 1. Never mention that the water flowing along the canal is dirty, and 2. When the boatman asks if he should sing a song, do answer him to avoid any miscommunications later.
We left the canal-threaded side of Zhou Zhuang with its pathways, stone bridges, and courtyards, taking a trishaw ride to the more modern side of the town for dinner. Stopping at the Zhou Zhuang Hotel Chinese Restaurant, we had the opportunity to relish on a Zhou Zhuang specialty dish, Wan Shan Ti. Wan Shan Ti is an extremely fatty dish of pork knuckles, stewed in thick red sauce. Rather delicious, actually, if you can oversee the amount of visible pork fat!
Going back almost 900 years, Zhou Zhuang has been able to sustain and preserve its ancient traditions and atmosphere. Life here has not changed much, and I’m sure it will remain that way for a long time to come.
Written by Barb in BC on 25 May, 2005
EAST CHINA AGRICULTURE
The Yangtze Delta is a watery, tropical place. The rural landscape of this Shanghai, Suzhou, and Zhouzhaung region is intensely farmed in fascinating variations. Storage ponds serve as fish farms, while whitewashed homes perch upon the surrounding dikes. Many…Read More
EAST CHINA AGRICULTURE
The Yangtze Delta is a watery, tropical place. The rural landscape of this Shanghai, Suzhou, and Zhouzhaung region is intensely farmed in fascinating variations. Storage ponds serve as fish farms, while whitewashed homes perch upon the surrounding dikes. Many ponds are peppered with poles to mark freshwater pearl beds. The popular condiment, lotus root, also grows in these ponds. Then there are the myriad of ducks and geese that thrive in such places. Crab vendors line the roadways, so the ponds must also provide habitat for some type of freshwater crustaceans.
It was frustrating here as elsewhere in China to roar past these curiosities in our rush to bus from tourist trap to tourist trap. For the most part, rural pictures were taken through the reflective windows as we sped on by.
However, we enjoyed one exception when our time allowed and our guide heeded our pleas to stop beside a rice field. During the spring and summer wet season, the fields are flooded for rice production. During the fall dry season of our visit, the fields are drained, the rice straw is baled, and wheat is planted as the second crop. Dry areas are also used to grow vegetables and soy beans. While vineyards did well here, there did not appear to be as many orchards as around Beijing. The trunks of trees here, as with elsewhere in China, are protectively wound with rope, but I was never given an explanation from what the rope protected these trees. The branches of most fruit trees are heavily propped.
VENICE OF THE ORIENT
Suzhou competes with neighbouring Zhouzhaung for the title of "Venice of the Orient." Both have interlocking canals lined by whitewashed homes with gray-tiled roofs. These canals feed into the Grand Canal, which runs for 1792km to Beijing. This artery,…Read More
VENICE OF THE ORIENT
Suzhou competes with neighbouring Zhouzhaung for the title of "Venice of the Orient." Both have interlocking canals lined by whitewashed homes with gray-tiled roofs. These canals feed into the Grand Canal, which runs for 1792km to Beijing. This artery, believed to be the largest internal waterway in the world, averages 2m in depth and was hand dug around 1300 A.D. for the travel leisure of the royal family and as a means to carry grain tribute from the Yangtze River plain to the capital. This canal system is still used to convey local agricultural produce via flat-bottomed boats.
Marco Polo, who visited Suzhou in the 13th century, wrote that "the great Khan... has made a huge canal of great width and depth from river to river and from lake to lake and made the water flow along it so that it looks like a big river. By this means it is possible to go... as far as Khan-balik" (as Beijing was then known). I wonder if Venetian-born Polo, who served the great Khan, might have been responsible for the concept of this canal.
Zhouzhaung (I have no idea how to pronounce it) is 30km (18 miles) southeast of Suzhou, towards Shanghai in the Jiangsu Province, where rivers and lakes are plentiful. The difference between the towns, it seemed to me, was that the canals are the main transportation routes through downtown Zhouzhaung, whereas they rimmed Suzhou. Besides, since Suzhou is already "The Garden City," Zhouzhaung earns my "Venice of the Orient" title. Like Venice, Zhoushaung is noted for its well-preserved ancient residential houses lining the waterways, some of which have stood for 900 years. Like Venice, the primary form of transportation is the gondola, albeit a larger version.
Sidewalks line downtown waterways. We had about 1 hour to browse the many shops. I would have liked a day for this. It was in this charming marketplace, however, that my roommate and I had occasion to consider the possibility of a darker side. An "art dealer" was determined that we should accompany him to see his goods, and he was overly insistent that we accompany him to his shop located somewhere up a back flight of stairs. Our alarm bells sounded. That art store may have been entirely innocent, but we shall never know.
Lovely stone bridges span the water lanes, providing passage for sidewalk foot traffic and rickshaws. Dwellings and courtyards crowd the waterways, which also serve for clothes-washing. Over the last 1,000 years, life does do not appear to have changed much.
SUZHOU'S TIGER HILL
The king who founded Wu 2500 years ago is said to be buried atop Tiger Hill. There are two versions for the naming of this park: the entrance gate resembles the mouth of a tiger with a hilltop pagoda resembling its…Read More
SUZHOU'S TIGER HILL
The king who founded Wu 2500 years ago is said to be buried atop Tiger Hill. There are two versions for the naming of this park: the entrance gate resembles the mouth of a tiger with a hilltop pagoda resembling its tail; the other is that when the King of Wu was buried atop the hill, a tiger is said to have appeared—perhaps as a vengeful reminder of the 1000 tomb-builders who were slaughtered there after their job was completed.
It is a hefty climb to the top of Tiger Hill. Those with imperial means can be carted. We trudgers were rewarded with other fascinations along the way such as the period costumes of the park employees. I suspect the hostesses were chosen for their beauty. Charming smiles lit the gorgeous faces of these young women of China. A dance rehearsal on a secluded stage also caught the eye of my camera.
Those who make it to the top of the hill get a close-up view of the Tiger’s Tail—the old temple pagoda. The memorable thing is that it tilts like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The Oriental version is 400 years older than its Italian counterpart and it leans 2.4 metres off the vertical. No access is allowed--wonder why?
Written by travel2000 on 13 Nov, 2000
If you would like to know what to buy, here is what Suzhou is famous for: Silk
Embroidery, espcially double-sided embroidery. This means the work looks the same from the right and the wrong side. These works of art are usually framed in a glass…Read More
If you would like to know what to buy, here is what Suzhou is famous for: Silk
Embroidery, espcially double-sided embroidery. This means the work looks the same from the right and the wrong side. These works of art are usually framed in a glass frame to show off the beauty of both sides.
Candies, for example, pine nut candies from CaiZhiZai at the main shopping street. These are delicious.
Shiquan Street and Lindun Street near the Suzhou Museum are good for shopping. Close