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Suzhou --'Venice in the Orient'
This 2.500-year-old city is located beside Taihu Lake in southernmost Jiangsu Province. Visitors can get to the city by a one-hour train journey from Shanghai. The Beijing- Hangzhou Grand Canal flows through the city. The west suburb of Suzhou is hilly, and the east is dotted with lakes and ponds. With a warm climate and plentiful rainfall, the fertile farmlands here abound in agricultural products of many kinds.

Its numerous rivers and canals, its many small bridges over flowing water, and its famous gardens combine to make Suzhou one of the most scenic cities in southeast China. Macao Polo thought it could rival his own hometown in Italy and called it "Venice in the Orient."

Suzhou gardens represent the finest landscape architecture south of the Yangtze River. There are more than 180 elegant classical gardens here, enabling residents to enjoy the charm of natural scenery without leaving the city. The planting of gardens came into fashion in the Song Dynasty; the ten big gardens now open to tourists represent architectural styles of the Song, Yuan, and Qing dynasties.

Tiger Hill (Huqiu)

Tiger Hill, 3.5 kilometers northwest of Suzhou, lays claims to being the "first scenic spot in the State of Wu" (Suzhou was once the capital of the state). This is where the King of Wu, He Lu (? - 496 B.C.), enjoyed himself during his lifetime and was buried after his death. A legend said that three days after He Lu was buried, people saw a white tiger crouching on his tomb, and so the place was named Tiger Hill. Barely over thirty meters high, the small hill is extraordinary, with towering ancient trees and a thousand-year-old pagoda. Sites include Broken Beam Hall (Duanliangdian), Leisurely Spring (Hanhanquan), Testing Sword Rock (Shijianshi), and Cloud Rock Temple Pagoda (Yunyansita) (also called Huqiu Pagoda). Competed in 961, the seven-storied octagonal pagoda is fifty-four meters and built entirely of bricks. Its architectural style is similar to that of the Leifeng Pagoda in Hangzhou.

Surging Waves Pavilion (Canglangting)

Located near Sanyuanfang in the southern part of the city, this pavilion stands in one of the oldest gardens of Suzhou. The garden was built by the Northern Song Dynasty poet Su Shunqin (1008-1048) and occupies only one hectare. The buildings were erected around a hill, on which are verdant trees and winding paths lines with bamboos. The Surging Waves Pavilion stands right on the top of the hill.

Lion Grove (Shizilin)

Located on Yuanlin Road, this garden dates from 1350; it got its name from its lion-shaped rocks. It covers only one hectare and its structures encircle manmade hills erected with rocks from Taihu Lake. The hills take up half of the garden's area; the highest is named Lion Peak (Shizifeng). Visitors will find stones inscribed by Su Shi, Mi Fu, and Huang Tingjian, all distinguished Song Dynasty calligraphers.

Humble Administrator's Garden (Zhuozhengyuan)

Built in 1522 during the Ming Dynasty and lying adjacent to Lion Grove, Humble Administrator's Garden is the large garden in Suzhou, covering five hectares. The scenery here is dominated by hills and water, with water taking up three-fifths of the total area; all the major buildings face the water. The garden is divided into three sections, each having an exquisite hall at its center surrounded by pavilions, arched bridges, manmade hills, and water pavilions.

Lingering Garden (Liuyuan)

Built in 1525, this three-hectare garden is located outside Changmen Gate. The garden is compactly laid out, consisting of four sections linked by a winding corridor of over a thousand meters.

Fisherman's Garden (Wangshiyuan)

This smallest garden in Suzhou is situated at Shiquan Street outside Fengmen Gate in southeast Suzhou. It was built in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and rebuilt during the reign of Emperor Qian Long (1736-1795) of the Qing Dynasty. It was designed in a style which integrates the garden with the residence. The garden is divided into three areas. The main garden lies in the middle with a pool at its center encircled by trees, flowers, manmade hills, rocks, and buildings. Around the square pool and Shoot Duck Corridor (Sheyalang), Zhouying Water Pavilion, and stone bridges, all erected close to the water to reinforce the feeling of the broadness of the pond. The western area is an inner garden used by the owner for reading, banqueting, and meeting friends. The residence lies to the east. Visitors to this remarkable garden get the feeling that there are "gardens inside the garden and new scenery beyond the scenery."

Chilly Hill Temple (Hanshansi)

Located at Fengqiao Town five kilometers west of Suzhou, Chilly Hill Temple, more popularly referred to as Hanshan Temple, was built during the period from 502 to 519. It got the name because a monk named Hanshan once served as abbot here in the Tang Dynasty. Buildings to visit within the temple include Grand Hall, Sutra Storage Tower (Cangjinglou), Bell Tower (Zhonglou), Maple River Tower (Fengjianglou), and Steles Corridor (Beilang). The temple became well known after the Tang poet Zhang Ji wrote a famous poem while on board that was passing by the temple, two lines of which read: "Outside the Suzhou wall, from Hanshan Temple's bell, I hear its sound aboard the boat and feel its midnight spell."


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