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Suzhou Guide,Gardens,Water Town,Things to do- Absolute China Tours

Introduction of Suzhou

Suzhou, a 2,500-year-old city of gardens

"In heaven there is paradise, on earth, Suzhou and Hangzhou." Steeped in history and romanticized by poems and paintings, the 2,500-year-old Suzhou is a city with world-class gardens, crisscrossing canals, centuries-old houses, interlacing laneways, Kungqu opera, silk, crafts, refined cuisine and refined lifestyle.

The majority of attractions can be found in the old city, whose layout and lifestyle remain almost the same during the past 2,500 years. Old Suzhou is jam packed with old buildings. A sense of community and history is evident. All of its houses, private gardens and laneways have a story to tell. Suzhou features a web of canals flanked by two-storey houses with white washed tiles and black-tilted eaves. Many pedestrian streets here provide enjoyable dinning, shopping and social networking opportunities. If you are looking for countryside charm thrown into a urban hum, just head to the water towns. Suzhou is fringed with a wealth of ancient water towns in the outskirt, with Zhouzhuang, Tongli, Luzhi as the fine examples. In addition, the Jinji (Golden Rooster)Lake and Taihu Lake well worth half a day’s exploration.
suzhou city guide

Both the Chinese and foreign friends admire Suzhou, but for different reasons. The Chinese appreciate its tranquilizing vibe, elegant lifestyle, culture-laden sights and exquisite food. To them, Suzhou is like a beautiful dreamland, a long lost friend, an eternal spiritual sanctuary and an oasis of traditions. While for the foreign friends, Suzhou can be likened to be a riddle, a time-frozen retreat, a Shangri-La paradise and a mysterious oriental beauty.
suzhou city guide

Suzhou is a beautiful blend of man and nature in harmony.  Bring a pair of comfortable shoes, and your camera. It has so much to see and do in Suzhou that you do not want to leave.

Suzhou is walking-friendly. Its laneways invite you to experience the good old days. The tranquil lanes are flanked with ancient buildings, doors are fronted by ornate stone lions, the air us filled a slight smell of old wood, and timeless Suzhou gardens offer legendary vistas. Suzhou gardens are excellent examples of simple elegance, and boast of intriguing scenes found in every season and in all weathers.

Contrasting to old Suzhou quarter is the boisterous new Suzhou downtown core, defined by the glittering advertisement boards and skyward high risings. Beautiful in its diversity and unbeatable in its unity, Suzhou is a harmonious blend of the past and the modern, man and nature.
suzhou city guide
【People】According to a recent survey, Suzhou is inhabited by 6 million, among them the Han Chinese outnumber the rest. In addition, 20,000 expats and expatriates live and work here.. Suzhou and Hangzhou share great similarity, in many aspects. Both cities feature legendary natural beauty highlighted by gardens, heavily-frosted parks and artistic feeling. Tea-drinking is a popular pastime in both cities. Art and traditional crafts , such as silk, umbrella, embroidery, paintings, are greatly valued.

【Transportation】The main airport in Suzhou is now solely for military use, so the nearest airports are in Shanghai, i.e. Pudong International Airport and Hongqiao Airport. The shuttle buses that commutate Pudong Airport and Suzhou takes about 2 hours, while those from Hongqiao Airport to Suzhou take around 100 minutes. Travelers can also get to Suzhou by train : first take Shanghai Metro from Pudong Airport to reach Xinke Station, and then transfer to a train.

【Geography】Bordering Shanghai to the east, Zhejiang Province to the south, Lake Taihu to the west and the Yangtze to the north, the natural scenery of hills and waters in Suzhou is as charming and beautiful as the history that surrounds it. Suzhou itself has an area of 8848 sq. km, of which 10 per cent is cultivated fields, low hills occupy 30 per cent, and the rest is the Venice-like water town. Streets and alleys in Suzhou extend side by side with rivers.

【Climate】Suzhou is characterized by four distinctive seasons with relatively high annual precipitation. The yearly average temperature is about 16 degrees Celsius. January and July represent the coldest and hottest month of Suzhou respectively, better avoid these periods. The daily temperature in January is about 1 to 8 degrees Celsius while in the hottest month, July, the daily high is around 34 degrees Celsius, occasionally hitting 40.

Suzhou operas

Crowned as a UNESCO Intangible Heritage, Suzhou opera, or Kungqu, is a sparkling gem. Kunshan City ((a county-level city under the administration of Suzhou municipal government and one of the most important economic engines of China)) of Suzhou is the hometown and cradle of Kunqu opera, , currently called Kunshan cityThe past centuries saw Kunqu opera dramatically spreading in towns and villages after upgrading. Kunqu opera is authoritatively considered as a scholar’s opera due to its content, lines and dialogue are mostly too elegant and sophisticated to be understood by the commoners. But people of all classes and tastes, grow addictive to Kunqu opera. They organized the Kunqu opera troupes and held the performance festivals. Historically, the annual opera performance meeting in Huqiu was so attractive that tens of thousands of audiences gathered just for a short-time enjoying. Centered on Suzhou, the influence of Kunqu opera reached all the corners of China and led Chinese operas for more than 200 years. A large batch of excellent actors or performers and playwrights like Liang Chenyu as well as many famous playbooks were recorded in history.

Currently, Kunqu Opera becomes fashionable again after the young people feel tired of the so-called popular stars and movie stars. A newly-edited Mudanting or Peony Pavilion Kungqu Opera, directed by Bai Xianyong in accordance with the classical playbook wrote by Tang Xianzu, China’s Shakespeare hailing from the Ming Dynasty, was widely welcomed and unprecedentedly accepted after its debut in Mainland China.

Still of Kunqu Opera named Peony Pavilion

Mudanting or Peony Pavilion perhaps is the most outstanding masterpiece of Kunqu opera. Its romantic story, poetic words, gentleman-like dialogue, aesthetic expression, classical gesture, rhythmical charm, fabulous costumes, dreamlike performance, elaborative stage background  as well as the  the mythical result impress the audience deeply and widely. Cui Yingying and Liu Mengmei's love story satisfies many people, because it is closely and rootedly associated with the core of  Chinese tradition and Chinese culture. Distinguished from Liangzhu love story, This is much more understandable and welcome in public for its best result and best wishes. May all the people falling in love have the best marriage.  Currently Bai Xianyong's latest edition of Peony Pavilion has been tremendously spread in China. it re-displays the great charm of Chinese classical culture and literature.


Talents from Suzhou

Talents from Suzhou roughly fall into painting masters, poetry masters, calligraphists, Buddhist masters, Confucians, philosophers, playwrights, literary masters, musical masters and multi-skilled masters. The most prominent and outstanding representatives are Four Talents in Jiangnan area: Tang Bohu, Zhu Zhishan, Wen Zhengming and Xu Zhengqing, four well-educated and all-round scholars living in Suzhou during the Ming Dynasty.

Tang Bohu(1470~1523), officially called Tang Yin(literally translated into Tiger Tang just because he was born in the year of Traditional Tiger Year), is reputed as the Most Romantic & Talented Man in Jiangnan Area(Southern China) and one of the most well-known and popular talented men in Chinese history. A lot of touching and romantic love stories are connected with him. . Tang Bohu was specialized in painting, calligraphy and literature. In the aspect of painting, he was equally famous with Shen Zhou, Wen Zhengming and Qiu Ying; they were called Four Painting Masters of the Ming Dynasty. In the aspect of poem and lyric words, he was equally famous with Wen Zhengming, Zhu Yunming and Xuzhengqing; they were called Four Talents in Jiangnan Area.

Wen Zhengming(1470~1559) was another authoritative talented man in Suzhou. He used to be a high-ranking official. Wen Zhengming was born in a scholar’s home,. Both his father and grandfather were famous literature masters in Suzhou. During his childhood, he was not so smart as others children, but he was diligent and strong-willed, and he picked up the calligraphy and Chinese traditional painting from Li Yingzheng and Shenzhou. Finally he became one master of Chinese literature, calligraphy, painting as well as others. His experiences and stories are always the examples that modern teachers like to quote to inspire some students who think themselves are too stupid. Among his accomplishments, his calligraphy was most welcomed, honestly was the best one in the Ming Dynasty. All of his masterpieces of calligraphy were well-arranged in layout and the styles of writing, although he was 90 years old. Wen Zhengming died in 1559 and was the oldest one in Four Talents. His tomb currently becomes the important cultural site under the province-level protection.

Zhu Zhishan (1460-1526)
was born in a Confucian official family. He was a wonder-child in his childhood. He began writing calligraphy at the age of 5, creating poems and essays at the age of 9 and read extensively in all aspects at the age of 10. At his age of 7, he succeeded in royal exam and became Xiucai and late became the governmental official. He was displeased with the corrupted official and government and resigned. He came back to his hometown and made plenty of friends . All the days, he drank a lot to relive his sorrow from the reality. His calligraphy masterpieces are unique and are true reflections of his personality.

Xu Zhengqing(1479-1511) was a Ming-era famous literary master hailing from Suzhou. He opened a literature school in Chinese literature history. He was the leader of Chinese literature in the Ming Dynasty. He was a Buddhism believer and emphasized the importance of self-cultivation but he still died at the age of 33.

Suzhou Folklore

 Suzhou is poetic and humanistic.

There is no dearth of folklore stories, especially the romantic love stories of beauties and talents. These stories mirror its local tradition, custom and history. Suzhou is another love heaven in China, just as its twin city Hangzhou. Suzhou Stories, important parts of Suzhou literature and culture, are immortalized by opera performances, local folk songs and dialects. Suzhou stories are humanized with the characteristics and history of Suzhou thoroughly.

Suzhou is partially famous for its historical relics and heritage, and these relics and heritages are closely linked with it stories and history. Visitors may not understand these great attractions if they do not know the stories concerned.

Suzhou classical gardens 

Suzhou gardens are world-renowned. Their history be traced back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC - 476 BC). Distinctive gardens continued to appear throughout the subsequent dynasties, but it was during the Ming (1368 - 1644) and Qing (1644 - 1911) that the garden art of Suzhou reached its peak. The prospering city and its outskirts were dotted with exquisite private gardens. Dozens of them, such as Humble Administrator's Garden, Lingering Garden, Master of Nets Garden and Huanxiu (Embracing Beauty) Mountain Villa, are still well preserved today.

Suzhou gardens mainly fall into private gardens, which contrast to those imperial gardens in Beijing. The imperial gardens of Beijing are considered the finest examples of that style. They are noted for their expansive size, grandeur and stateliness. The gardens of Suzhou are the epitome of landscaping art for the private garden, with their delicacy, intimacy, and simplicity. The designers of private gardens, not bound by the rigid conventions of the imperial court, had greater freedom of expression in their art.
suzhou city guide

The ancient gardens of Suzhou were designed to be lived in as much as were the houses to which they were attached. Paths invited residents and their guests to wander, offering a new view at every bend; pavilions, gazebos or simple seats offered comfortable spots in which to relax, chat, and perhaps to take some refreshments or pen a poem. This type of landscaping was often used in the densely populated cities, where residents recalled the countryside with nostalgia and yearned to commune with nature. Zhuozheng (Humble Administrator's) Garden, Liuyuan (Lingering) Garden, Wangshi (Master of Nets) Garden and Huanxiu (Embracing Beauty) Mountain Villa of Suzhou are representative of the Ming-Qing-dynasty landscape architecture in areas south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. In fact, it was the perfection of the designs and workmanship of these gardens that influenced landscaping throughout the region.
suzhou city guide

Horizontal inscribed boards, hanging scrolls, sculptures and hall decorations, as well as the trees, stones and ponds in the gardens are not only delightful treats for the senses. They also provide a wealth of information as to the history, society, values and aesthetics of the eras in which they were built. They are storehouses of the artifacts of their times: calligraphy, carvings and paintings. But they are also treasure troves of classical thought. Wandering through the gardens even today, people can enjoy reflecting on the philosophic concepts and ideologies of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism; they can still sense the romance of the ancient poetry and prose that influenced the gardens' creators.
suzhou city guide

In recent years, the influence of the Suzhou gardens' designs has even traveled across oceans. Ming Hall Garden, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, is a copy of a section of the Master of Nets Garden. The design of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden in Vancouver, Canada, was based on the Ming Dynasty Suzhou garden style. In 1997, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added to its prestigious list of world cultural heritage sites Suzhou's Zhuozheng (Humble Administrator's) Garden, Wangshi (Master of Nets) Garden, Liuyuan (Lingering) Garden, Canglang (Surging Waves) Pavilion, Yipu Garden (Garden of Cultivation), Huanxiu (Embracing Beauty) Mountain Villa, Ouyuan (Couple's Garden Retreat) Garden, Shizilin (Lion Forest) Garden and Tuisiyuan (Retreat and Reflection) Garden.

inside landscape of Classical gardens

Suzhou Classical Garden maybe is the best name brand of Suzhou in the world. Actually Suzhou Classical Garden is just one gem of Suzhou culture and history. It is just one part of Suzhou Charm, but it is surely qualified to represent Suzhou in the world, because it is the evidence to show how elegant and talented Suzhou is! Traditionally Suzhou gardens were the private gardens of many rich or talented learners and well-educated officials. The impressive layouts and the detailed design of each part and corner of the gardens both show the tradition and culture of Suzhou, even China. Through visiting these gardens, you can understand more or less what is Chinese elegance and charm in culture and life. Leading an elegant life is the dream of every one, maybe including you. If possible, come to Suzhou and realize your dream  of elegant life in elegant China.


Time to Marvel: Top 9 Gardens in Suzhou crowned as UNESCO Heritage Sites

 humble administrator's garden lingering garden
Humble Administrator's GardenLingering Garden
 Master of the Nets Garden  Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty
Master of the Nets Garden Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty环秀山庄
 couple restreat garden Garden of Cultivation
Couple's Retreat Garden 耦园Garden of Cultivation 艺圃
 garden of cultivation suzhou Lion Grove Garden Suzhou
Great Wave Pavilion 沧浪亭Lion Grove Garden 狮子林园
 Retreat & Reflection Garden 
Retreat & Reflection Garden 退思园 

If you are really into Suzhou gardens, consider other lessern-known and less crowded Gardens in Suzhou


Time to Relax: Water Towns near Suzhou

 Very famous and good ones

Time to Eat &Shop: Famous Pedestrian Streets in Suzhou


Time to eat: Time-honored Restaurants in Suzhou


Time for Connecting with Nature---Famous Parks in Suzhou


Time for Connecting with Nature---Famous Hills&Lakes in Suzhou



Time to Communicate with Buddha


Time to See Suzhou's Gems and Treasures

 Updated by Sophia Lee on Jun 16, 2014
This post is under updating.


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