Zhouzhuang Water Town
Zhouzhuang Water Town is a popular tourist destination in Suzhou. It’s 30 km southwest of Suzhou City and an hour’s drive from Shanghai. Zhouzhuang is the most well-known among all water towns in Suzhou for its profound cultural background, the well preserved ancient residential houses, the elegant watery views and the strong local coloured traditions and customs. People call it “Venice of the Orient”.
Sights in Zhouzhuang include:
Twin Bridges (Shuang qiao)
Zhouzhuang is surrounded and divided by lakes and rivers. 14 stone bridges cross the rivers, showing distinctive views of the water-town. The Twin Bridges, which comprise of Shide Bridge and Yongan Bridge, are the most famous and are considered the symbol of Zhouzhuang. Built in the Wanli era (1573-1619) of the Ming Dynasty, the Twin Bridges are located in the northeast of the town. Shide Bridge crosses east-west and has a round arch, while Yongan Bridge crosses north-south and has a square arch. Crossing the two crisscrossing rivers (Yinzi Creek and Nabeishi River) and connecting at the middle, the Twin Bridges look like an old-style Chinese key. In 1984, 38 canvases of the notable painter, Chen Yifei, were exhibited in a New York gallery of Armand Hammer, chairman of Occidental Petroleum Corporation. "Memory of Hometown", which depicted the Twin Bridges, was one of the items on display and has gained Zhouzhuang worldwide attention. The painting was chosen to be the first-day cover of the United Nations' postage stamp in 1985 and since then, tourism to Zhouzhuang has been rife.
Located at the eastern end of Zhongshi Jie, Fuan Bridge was built in 1355 during the Yuan Dynasty. The unique trait of the Fuan is the consummate combination of the single-arch bridge and the bridge towers which are used as tearooms, restaurants and stores, and are good places to appreciate the views while taking a rest.
Built in 1742 and located at the southeast side of Fuan Bridge, Shen House was the private property of a descendant of Shen Wansan, the first millionaire of Jiangnan (South of Yangtze River) in the early Qing Dynasty. The whole architectural complex is of Qing styling and occupies an area of more than 2,000 square meters (half an acre). Over 100 rooms are divided into three sections and each one is connected by arcades and aisles. The first is the water gate and the wharf, where Shen's family moored boats and washed clothes. The middle part includes the gate tower, the tearoom and the main hall. The brick gate tower is carved with lively and ingenious figures which tell fascinating stories or even tell fortunes. The tea room and main hall are places for serving guests, and the furnishings in here are naturally very elegant. The last section is the two-storied dwelling which consists of several buildings which are quite different from the main hall, as their pattern is more refined. The painted sculpture of legendary Shen Wansan is in Datang Tower and cultural relics including ancient folk instruments are exhibited in Xiaotang Tower and Back Hall.
Zhang House was built by Xu's family in the Zhengtong era (1436-1449) of the Ming Dynasty and bought by Zhang's family in the early Qing Dynasty. Located to the south of the Twin Bridges, Zhang House has more than 70 rooms and takes up about 1,800 square metres (less than half an acre). With Ruojing River flowing through, Zhang House is a graceful residential house with a tranquil courtyard and pond. Deep halls all represent the life of the quondam owner.
Once called the De's Tavern, Milou Tower perches next to Zhenfeng Bridge which is at the southwest corner of Zhouzhuang. It is famous for being a rallying place of the literates in the past. Numerous poems, songs and stories about Milou Tower are well known and only add to its charm.
Chengxu Taoist Temple
Standing on Zhongshi Street which is opposite to Puqing Bridge, Chengxu Taoist Temple was built during 1086-1093 of the Song Dynasty and is also known as Sanctity Hall (Shengtang Hall). After several periods of expansion, it is one of the most famous Taoist temples in Wuzhong Region. In an area of 1,500 square metres (1,800 square yards), simple but majestic, Shengdi and Doumu halls, Yuhuang, Wenchang and Shengdi pavilions are really elaborate works and masterpieces of Taoist architectures.