Tongli Water Town Tours
Tongli is an ancient town in Wujiang district, tucked away on the outskirts of Suzhou, in Jiangsu province. Established during the Song Dynasty, Tongli Water Town is over 1,000 years old and has only recently been changed into a tourist attraction. The town is characterized by stone bridges and well preserved ancient architecture, including private gardens, temples and houses.
Tongli Water Town is famous for its canals, bridges and classical gardens. Fifteen small river lanes crisscross Tongli’s 49 stone bridges. The bridges don’t disappoint; the number of ancient bridges, and the variety of ornate styles, is well worth a long look and lots of photos!
A canal at Tongli Water Town
Bridges are important parts of the culture of Tongli. The most famous bridges among the 49 bridges in Tongli are Taiping Bridge (peace), Jili (luck) Bridge and Changqing (celebration) Bridge, which are important landmarks of Tongli and are regarded as sacred architecture by the locals. Whenever there is an important occasion, such as wedding, a festival or any happy event, people like to walk across the three bridges. Folklore says walking across the bridges will bring peace, fortune, and happiness into your life!
There is a plethora of well-preserved beautiful buildings in Tongli Water Town from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. They stand by the riverside, as if posing, and are majestically spotlight Tongli. The traditional gardens are well worth seeing. The Tuisi Garden is a good example. The garden was constructed between 1885-1887 by an imperial official. In the garden, pavilions, terraces, halls, rockeries, ponds and other elements of the garden have been harmoniously and lovingly integrated.
Highlights in Tongli Water Town
1. Tuisi Garden
Tuisi garden was built during the Qing Dynasty by an imperial official. Tuisi means "rethink" in Chinese. The owner named his garden "Tuisi" to show his positive attitude. Although the imperial official was downgraded, he didn’t give up and made a practice of rethinking and self-correcting his mistakes. In 2001, Tuisi Garden was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tuisi Garden is comfortably presented and a beautiful place for relaxation and reflection.
Tuisi Garden in Tongli
2. Chongben Hall
Tongli Water Town can be likened to a large museum, and Chongben Hall is the most exquisite piece of artwork in the museum! Countless carvings depicting ancient stories, such as the Romance of West Chamber, A Dream in Red Mansions, and the Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea, can be found on the doors, thresholds, and windows. Every area in Chongben Hall tells a story. Give yourself plenty of time to tour Chongben Hall, you won’t regret it!
3. Jiayin Hall
The shape of the Jiayin Hall looks like a cap of an ancient official. Its high roof and indoor decorations make you feel like standing in an ancient government hall. There are also carvings about ancient Chinese stories in the hall, such as the Romance of the Three Kingdom.
4. Gengle Hall
Gengle means "happy to plough" in Chinese. Its former owner’s attitude of contentment is reflected by the name of the hall. The vivid root carvings in the hall, attracts thousands of tourists every year. Of special interest, in the residential section, take note of the ancient winding stone bridges and old houses with unique wood carvings.
5. Pearl Tower
Once owned by a government official, Pearl Tower is not really a tower but a small garden in Tongli made famous for the love story "Pearl Tower," and it's the largest garden in Tongli. There are lovely ancient residential homes and wide water gardens that will take you back to the time of the famous "Pearl Tower" love story.
"Pearl Tower" is also the name of a local opera. Most views in the garden are designed according to the scene in the opera. There is a Pearl TV Tower in Shanghai as well and that very tall and famous tower is not to be confused with the sweet little Pearl Tower garden in Tongli!
6. Three Bridges
The netted rivers span the 49 bridges in a variety of fashions. The most famous ones are Taiping Bridge, Jili Bridge and Changqing Bridge; all three bridges represent blessings. These three elegantly chiseled bridges standing in the center of the ancient town look like fine stone artworks sheltered by lush vegetation.
The Three Bridges Area in Tongli
7. Luoxingzhou Island
It takes a 5-minute boat ride to reach the Luoxingzhou Island. The river view is so charming that many people want the boat ride to take longer! The Island itself is actually a garden. It's made up of pools, pavilions, rockeries and small bridges, almost every element for a classic ancient garden can be found on the Island. The City God Temple on the Island is the most popular attraction. Thousands of people visit the temple to pray for good luck during the Spring Festival period.
8. Songshiwu Garden
Songshiwu Garden is a meditation garden and a nice place to visit. It’s covered by tall trees and is a cozy place to meditate, if you feel so inclined, to find inner peace. You might also be interested in the paintings on the stones in the garden.
9. Former Residence of Chen Qubing
Chen Qubing (1874-1933) was a poet and revolutionist. He participated in Sun Yat-Sen’s overthrow of the Qing Dynasty (1616 - 1912), which was the last feudal dynasty in the history of China. Compared with other renowned houses in Tongli, Chen Qubing’s former residence is far from luxurious; it’s just a simple and ordinary residence. Most tourists visit the house just for the history.
10. Gufeng Garden
The Gufeng Garden is a lovely garden adjacent to the Gu Feng Museum. There is a lovely view of the garden from the museum. The Gu Feng Museum exhibition area is filled with ancient beds, wood carvings, and other antiques. The ages of these antiques are labeled on the introduction cards next to the items on display.
Tongli Water Town is close to Shanghai and Suzhou, so we suggest you take public transportation from one of these two cities.
Take a bus at Hutai Road Bus Station, Shanghai Tourist Center (near the Eighty Thousand People Stadium), Qingbu Bus Station or north square of Shanghai Train Station. It takes around 2.5 hours and costs between 20 and 40 RMB.
Take a bus at the Bus Station of Wuzhong District, Suzhou Train Station or Suzhou South or North Train Stations. It takes around 40 minutes and cost 8 RMB. If you do not speak Mandarin, we suggest you take subway line 4 and get off at the Tongli stop.
Fried Spring Rolls
It is rightly said that Food is a Bridge to a Culture and a Lifestyle. While visiting Tongli, Don't miss the opportunity to taste fresh aquatic plants and fish. Much of the cuisine is sweet. Famous snacks include smoked fish, dried bean curd, cakes made of glutinous rice, and spring rolls (fried rolls stuffed with vegetables and sometimes includes meat). Precise cooking methods and presentations play an important role in Chinese cuisine, and it doesn't shine any brighter that the cuisine you will find in Tongli!
Weather and Climate
Tongli is in the subtropical zone with the Four Seasons distinctively separated. April-July is the most comfortable season when the climate is mild and the scenery is most beautiful with sprouting plants and blooming flowers. A winter visit offers a different experience. When the town is blanketed by snow, you may feel as if you are in a traditional Chinese painting of a winter wonderland!