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Itinerary Name: 4 Days Classical Garden Arts, Grand Canal & Lake Taihu Tour - Suzhou, Tongli, Wuxi from Shanghai
Day 1
Shanghai-Suzhou, Discover Traditional Chinese Gardens in Suzhou
Meal:Not included in the quotation
Hotel:Overnight in Suzhou

Suzhou, “The City of Classical Gardens”, which is around 100 km / 2 hours drive to the west of Shanghai. 


The first attraction you will visit is Tiger Hill, the No.1 Sight of Suzhou and the Tiger Hill Pagoda on top of it has been the landmark of Suzhou for over 1000 years. It is a large hillock and 36 metres (118 feet) in height. Climbing it, you will find a number of historical sites, some of which can be traced back over 2500 years to the founding of Suzhou. Although the hill is relatively small it has rich history. 

 

The next place to visit is Liu Yuan (The Lingering Garden). With more than 500 years history, this garden was renovated several times and now it remains its appearance in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD). As one of the largest gardens in Suzhou, the Lingering Garden is divided into four distinct areas by buildings with many small courtyards throughout. The architectural elements occupy one third of the space. This garden is known for its many carefully placed doors and patterned windows, each of which serves to frame the scene to be viewed from it. The sections are connected by a long roofed corridor which shapes itself to the changing terrain. The Lingering Garden contains 373 steles inscribed with the works of more than a hundred calligraphers from six dynasties (1700 years ago) which serve to illustrate the development of Chinese calligraphy over 1000 years.  

 

Then you will visit one gate on the ancient Suzhou City Wall, and also the only well preserved water and land city gate in China - Pan Gate and park around it, include the Wu Gate Bridge and the Auspicious Light Pagoda, the Three Scenes at Pan Gate. The construction of Pan Gate began in the first year of the reign of He Lu, King of Wu during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). Although it has been renovated and rebuilt many times through the ages, its location has never changed an inch. The present Pan Gate was rebuilt in the 11th year of the reign of Zhizheng in the end of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and renovated during the following Ming and Qing dynasties. With water gates and land gates towering side by side, Pan Gate looks very imposing.  

 

Afterwards, you will visit the Canglangting Garden (The Surging Waves Pavilion), the oldest of the existing private gardens in Suzhou. It was firstly built in the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127 AD) and renovated some times since then. The current garden was reconstructed in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD), at which time it was expanded into the nearby fields and more buildings and other features were added, but it is still with the Song Dynasty style. While most of the gardens of Suzhou are surrounded by walls, this one is centered on a large lake and its streams which wind through the grounds. The focal point is the Facing the Water Pavilion which sits at the edge of the water.  

 

The last place to enjoy today is the Cultivation Garden. With the house occupies over half of this small gardens area and a rectangular pond takes up another quarter of the space. Open sided galleries provide many different views which add a sense of spaciousness to the garden. This garden has an expansive view and a simple style. Since many of the original features of the garden have been preserved, the garden has a high historical and artistic value.

 

Day 2
Tour in Suzhou, Suzhou – Tongli
Meal:Not included in the quotation
Hotel:Overnight at Tongli Town

You will start your tour today with the visit to Suzhou Museum, which has a vibrant collection of historical and cultural artifacts from Chinas ancient and as well as more modern past. The collection includes 30000 cultural relics - most notably for excavated artifacts, Ming and Qing Dynasty paintings and calligraphy, and ancient arts and crafts. 

 

Humble Administrators Garden and Chinese Classical Garden Museum by the side of Suzhou Museum are your next stop today. Built in the early 16th century and developed over several centuries, the Humble Administrators Garden is the largest and most famous of the gardens in Suzhou and its many styles are representative of the history of classical gardening in Suzhou. 

 

Then you will visit the Lion Forest Garden, "Kingdom of Artificial Hills". The artificial hills in the garden cover an area about 1,153 sq m, much larger than those in other gardens. The garden was created by a group of Zen Buddhist disciples of the famous Abbot Tianru in 1342, during the Yuan dynasty, as the Budhi Orthodox Monastery. The garden is famous for the large and labyrinthine grotto of taihu rocks at its center. The name of the garden is derived from the shape of these rocks, which are said to resemble lions and as a reference to the symbolic lion in the Lions Roar Sutra. Hence the name. The garden, which attracted scholars and artists, was detached from the temple in the 17th century. It features a series of man-made mountains with various buildings disposed around the lake, together with an artificial waterfall on steep cliffs. The 14th-century mountains are still clearly visible. The woodland cover of the craggy mountains is pierced by winding paths and thereare many caves and grotesque rocks. There are 22 buildings in the garden, the most impressive is the stone boat.

 

Afterwards you will stroll in the Pingjiang Historical and Cultural Street Block which is located on both sides of Pingjiang River in the eastern of the ancient city and with an area of 30.66 hectares. It is the most typical and the best preserved historical and cultural street block in Suzhou. The street pattern has come into being since 13th century. The rivers, bridges, lanes, civilian residences, archways, temples, ancestral temples and halls exist all in harmony, forming an inseparable whole. 

 

The Couples Garden Retreat is also in this area. The original garden was built by Lu Jin, prefect of Baoning district, in 1874. It was purchased by Shen Bingcheng, the magistrate of Susong. who rebuilt it in its current form and changed the name to the Couples Garden Retreat. This name refers to the gardens two parts and alludes to the couple of the owner of this garden. The 0.33 ha garden is divided into an east and west section by the residential core in the middle; an unusual composition for a classical garden. East Garden is the main garden of the complex. It is dominated by a dramatically realistic mountain of yellow stone which rises from a pool flanked by several attractive Ming style buildings. The West garden is composed of several structures grouped around a small grotto and a Library annex, and the style is more subdued. It is structurally joined to the central residence.  

  

The last garden you will visit in Suzhou today is the Master of Nets Garden which is the smallest of Suzhou’s 4 best classical gardens and is the best protected former private garden with the residential part. It was firstly built in the mid-12th century as the residence of Shi Zhengzhi, a retired government official of the Song Dynasty who named his hall The Fishermans Retreat. He had a library in the garden known as The Hall of 10,000 Volumes. During the reign of Qian Long in the 1700s, Song Zongyuan bought the property and remodeled the gardens and renamed it based on the name of the original hall.   

The Map of the Master of Nets Garden 

    

    

The Middle Part of the Master of Nets Garden


    

The East Part of the Master of Nets Garden

  

The gate  tower in the garden, the best preserved gate tower in Suzhou

The beauty of this garden is derived from the exquisite balance of shape, arrangement and form with the buildings, pond and rockeries perfectly arranged. The effect is that the garden looks and feels much larger than it actually is. The west part of it - Dianchunyi Hall area (Peony Hall area) is thought the representative of Chinese classical garden and was even copied and built in the The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

    

    

The West Part of the Master of Nets Garden

        

The Ming House in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City



As the day draws to an end, drive for around 30km/45m to the ancient Tongli Town.

Day 3
Tour in Tongli, Tongli - Wuxi
Meal:Not included in the quotation
Hotel:Overnight in Wuxi

Today you will enjoy the fascinating Tongli, include ancient Mingqingjie Street (Ming & Qing Dynasty Street), The Retreat and Reflection Garden (UNESCO World Heritage), Pearl Tower Garden, Luoxingzhou Island in the Tongli Lake to the east of the town and some well preserved ancient mansions by the side of the picturesque narrow rivers and canals, such as Gengle Hall, Jiayin Hall, Chongben Hall and so on... 

 

 

In the late evening, you will leave Tongli for Wuxi City where a world of wonders awaits to be explored. It will take around 75km/1h15m on the way. 

 

After arrive in Wuxi in the early night, stroll at Ancient Nanchang Street by the side of Grand Canal, the oldest and longest canal in the world. 

 

More Info about Tongli Town:

Tongli Town, a picturesque ancient town, located 18 km from Suzhou City and 80km from Shanghai, and surrounded by five lakes – Tongli, Jiuli, Yeze, Nanxing and Pangshan. It still took its original shape during the time of the Song dynasty (960-1279 AD), though many of its surviving mansions are of later Ming and Qing origin. It is actually made up of seven islets connected to each other by over 40 arched stone bridges and fed by a network of some 15 canals. As recently as several years ago, residents were still blithely going about their lives along the canals (it was not uncommon to see children bathing and women washing clothes in the streams), but all that messy living has now been largely cleaned up for tourists. The most common sight in the canals these days is a flotilla of tourist gondolas. You, too, can soak up the watery atmosphere by renting a gondola from various piers scattered along the canals. 

 

Waterways aside, the rest of the old town is easily traversed on foot. The busiest street is the ancient Mingqing Jie (Ming & Qing Dynasty Street), a winding lane flanked with Ming and Qing dynasty (1368-1911 AD)-style wooden houses that have mostly been converted to shops and restaurants. The north end of this street leads to the old towns main attraction, Tuisi Yuan (Retreat and Reflection Garden). Built in 1886 by a dismissed court official, this World Heritage garden (In 2001, Tuisi Garden was listed as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.) is laid out from west to east in three sections, with the familys residences in the west, meeting and entertaining rooms in the center, and a small but cleverly designed landscaped garden in the east. The use of winding walkways with different shaped windows, jutting pavilions, and a reflecting pond make the garden appear larger than it is.  

 

There are still many other well protected ancient mansions and classical gardens in the town, such as Gengle Hall, Jiayin Hall, Chongben Hall, Pearl Tower Garden, Luoxingzhou Island in the Tongli Lake to the east of the town and so on...   

More info about Tongli at its official website: http://www.tongli.net

Day 4
Tour in Wuxi, Wuxi – Shanghai
Meal:Not included in the quotation
Hotel:No

The tour in Wuxi today begins with the visit to Turtle-head Peninsula Park by Taihu Lake (Lake Tai) – the 2nd biggest fresh water lake in China, 4 times the size of Singapore. This park is commonly considered as the best place to enjoy the giant Lake Tai. Tourists will also take ship to visit some islands inside the lake. 

 

The Map of the Turtle-Head Peninsula Park  

  

The next place to visit is Xihui Park. In the Park, tourists will enjoy the 2nd Best Spring in China which is located on the slope of Huishan Hill and found around around 1400 years ago, visit Huishan Temple which was built around 1500 years ago, Taibo Temple which is for the prince Taibo who got to this area from central China around 3000 years ago and is the origin of the Wu culture - the main culture in the southern Yangtze River Delta, Jichang Garden (Pleasure Garden) which was buit around 500 years ago.

 

Jichang Garden is one of the most typical Chinese gardens and famous for its garden arts - Borrowing Scene from afar. Inside this garden, you can find a pagoda on top of a high hill which is far away from the garden is also the part of this small private garden.

 

The last place you will visit here is Ancient Huishan Town, an ancient town by the side of Huishan Hill and Grand Canal. It is famous for it numerous ancestral temples. Now it is the key culture relics under the special protection of the central government.  

    

After a enjoyable eye-feasting day in Wuxi, sit back and enjoy a scenic drive back to Shanghai, 140km/2.5 hours.