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Tongli Water Town

Tongli Water Town, Suzhou

Brief Introduction of Tongli
Tongli in Suzhou is one of the most famous ancient water towns in the south of the Yangtze River Delta, which is famous for rivers, ancient bridges and house complexes. Tongli occupies an area of 51 square miles (133 square kilometers) with a population of 55,000. The city is separated by 15 rivers into seven islets, which are connected through 49 ancient bridges. The most famous bridges among the 49 bridges in Tongli are the three bridges called Taiping (peace), Jili (luck) and Changqing (celebration) bridges, which has been important landmarks of the place and regarded as the sacred architecture by the locals. Tongli is located a short drive from Suzhou and about an hour drive outside of Shanghai.


History of Tongli
Tongli, established in the Song Dynasty, has a history of over 1,000 years. It is very rich in cultural heritage. Traditional residences including gardens, houses and temples, built in the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty, are the highlight of the city. Jiayin Hall built in 1922 is known for its fine carvings on the structure. Congben Hall built in 1911 is also known for its carvings on the structure. There are more than one hundred of well-preserved woodcarvings of traditional figures from Chinese classics. In 2004, Tongli together with Zhouzhuang and Luzhi were listed in the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. With the rapid modernization of China, large number of historical towns disappeared under the bulldozers, with only a handful of well-preserved historical townships remaining today.

Tongli Water Town Highlights

Suzhou_Tours_Tongli_Water_TownResidential House
Tongli Water Town deserves its name of a “museum of ancient architectures” as there are many homes and temples dating from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Designed along the riverside and embellished with carved windows, porcelain furniture, figured clay bricks, flying eaves, dapper gardens and tiny stairs leading all the way down to the water, these complexes named Tongli Water Town could be a shining pearl among the water townships south of Yangtze.

Retreat and Reflection Garden (Tuisi Garden)
It was designed by the retired official Ren Lansheng throughout 1885 and 1887, is that the most spectacular in Tongli Water Town. Its name, Tuisi, suggests being meditative upon the previous faults when away from officialdom. The ingenious style for Tuisi Garden conforms to the native landforms and conditions and covers 700 square meters. Compact and harmonious, the garden is made from two parts. The garden within the east has verandas, ponds, waterside pavilions, Marble Boats, halls, kiosks, rockeries and bridges. In conjunction with flourishing trees and colorful flowers the garden greets guests with its beauty and charm regardless of the season. The residential area to the west consists of an outer house and inner house together with the tea hall, the sedan hall, 2 buildings forming the particular dwelling and a main reception hall.

Ancient Bridge
Taiping Bridge was built in 1747 during the Qing dynasty. Changqing Bridge, also named Guangli Bridge, was rebuilt by Xiezhen in the Ming dynasty. Siben Bridge, built in the Southern Song dynasty, is the oldest bridge in Tongli town. Dubu Bridge, 5 feet in length and 3 feet in width, is the smallest bridge in the town.As a character of Tongli, these ancient bridges today is reputed as the witness of the history, telling the story of the past.

Chongben Hall
Guarded by stone-paved riverbanks, Chongben Hall is nestled to the north of Changqing Bridge in Fuguan Street. It faces Jiayin Hall across the river in the east and connects Changqing Bridge in the west. If we think of Tongli as an ancient museum, Chongben Hall is considered to be a piece of delicately-carved handicraft belonging to the museum.

Jiayin Hall
The Jaiyin Hall was built in 1922 during the National Period. Unlike many of the other major residences in Tongli. What makes this residence interesting is the different styles of buildings which can be found on the grounds. In particular, the rear area is intricately carved and has a much different feel than the main hall which can be viewed on the bottom left. The residence itself consists of 24 different rooms and was built by Liu Bingnan. Due to the large amount of woodwork and it's importance, the building was repaired in the early 1990's and opened to the public aftewards.

tongli water town1.jpg

Many narrow and long lanes are situated among the streets of Tongli water town, most of which are hollow and stone-paved, and some wind their way for over 300 meters (328 yards). Cangchang Lane (neighboring Fuguan Street) only allows one person to walk along it at a time, with both of its ends serving as riverbanks, earning it the nickname "One Person Lane".

Pearl Tower Residence
At the actual rear of the Pearl Tower Residence is the Rear Garden, a large garden which was the play and relaxing area for the Wang Residence. As can be seen through the map at the bottom of the page, the main garden is hosted around a large pond which is quite common for a Southern Chinese garden. There are also a good smattering of smaller halls and pagodas around the garden for good measure. An Ancient Stage and Rock Boat on the pond can also be found which is almost synonymous for all major gardens in this region.

It was described as either the pond itself and it's ability to reflect the buildings around itself, or the small hill with pagoda on top which can be seen to one side of the pond. Naturally, the hill is in the form of a rock garden which is very common here. Like normal, there is also a shop selling some type of tea and drinks which may be needed on a hot day - especially when it gets so hot and sticky in summer.

Weiqu Cultural Centre
The Tongli Weiqu Cultural Centre is a newly opened and impressive looking museum and garden which celebrates Chinese Chess. It's located opposite the canal you can find the Residence of Chen Qubing - but this location is easy to see from the road! Inside the museum is a lot of Chinese explanations on Chinese chess but there are only English translations of the titles which makes the translations rather useless. However, the garden is rather pretty in summer and there is a good chance that there will be some lotus flowers in bloom which are normally good for some photos at least.


How to get to Tongli Water Town
From Suzhou:
1. Take a bus from the north square of Suzhou Railway Station or from Suzhou North Bus Station/South Bus Station.
2. Take Rail Transit Line 4 and get off at Tongli Station. Then transfer to the tourist bus bound for the north entrance of Tongli. 

From Shanghai:
1. Take a long distance bus from the General Station of the Shanghai Tour Bus Center or Hongkou Branch to Tongli water town.
2. Take bullet train from Shanghai train station to Suzhou, then take a bus from the north square of suzhou train station to Tongli water town

From Hangzhou:
1. Take a long distance bus from Hangzhou North Bus Station to Tongli water town.
2. Take bullet train from Hangzhou train station to Suzhou, then take a bus from the north square of suzhou train station to Tongli water town

Admission Fee: CNY 100
                       CNY50 (Night tour)

Openning Time: 07:30am - 09:00pm
                       06:30pm - 09:00pm (Friday-Sunday)
Time for visit: whole day
Address: Wujiang County, Sushou, Jiangsu Province, China

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