Located on the outskirts of Suzhou, this ancient town is known for its canal system. It’s been called, ‘The Venice of The East,’ and is a top choice for day trippers from Shanghai. The town is packed with culture, beautiful architecture, and plenty of novelty. If you want to visit Tongli Ancient Town, here’s everything that you need to know.
Interesting Facts About Tongli Ancient Town
-The town was built between 960 and 1279.
-It is located 80 kilometers from Shanghai and 10 kilometers from Suzhou.
-It can be found by Taihu Lake, which is east of Beijing-Hangzhou grand canal.
-There are six ancient towns south of the Yangtze River and Tongli is one of them.
-The town spans an area of 33 hectares.
-It is more than 1,000 years old.
-The entrance fee is 100 Yuan.
-The town has been open to the public since 1986.
-The architecture and the relics are representative of both the Ming and Qing dynasties.
-It is listed as a World UNESCO Heritage Site.
-The town is made up of seven small islands which are divided by 15 rivers.
-All islands are connected by 49 ancient bridges.
-The town has 47 temples, 38 Ming and Qing residences, and 100 residences of formerly powerful/rich people.
History of Tongli Ancient Town
With over 1,000 years of history, Tongli has seen many famous residents and changes. Confucian scholars, poets, painters, and government officials have passed through and lived in Tongli.
The easily accessible waterways and close proximity to Suzhou helped Tongli prosper. Buildings here were constructed under the influence of different dynasties, which is part of the reason the architecture is so interesting today.
The Culture Of Tongli Ancient Town
Culture is the main draw of Tongli. It’s packed with art, history, architecture, and natural scenery. This has left the town with much to do and see. If you’re visiting Tongli Ancient Town, make sure to check out:
-Jiayin Mansion: While it was built in the 1990s, this mansion reflects a traditional Ming dynasty architectural style. The intricate carvings, wood paneling, and pretty gardens make this place a joy to visit.
-Tuisi Garden: This two-part garden was built during the Qing dynasty and is one of the top attractions in Tongli. The western section features a private house with both an inner and outer section. Within it is a tea hall, sedan hall, and reception hall. The eastern section functions as a public garden and features bridges, ponds, pavilions, and verandas. It was once a meeting place for intellectuals, poets, and artists.
-Chongben Mansion: Built by a wealthy merchant in 1912, this mansion features four courtyards and an interior of wood carvings. Art lines the walls, and many of the scenes depicted are from ancient, Chinese literature. It’s made up of rows of buildings that are each higher than the next to signify hope.
-Three Bridges: While there are 49 bridges connecting the ancient town, there are three that are special. These bridges cross three rivers and are named; Lucky Bridge, Peace and Tranquility Bridge, and Lasting Celebration Bridge. Residents believe they are lucky which is why it’s tradition to walk over them on birthdays and weddings.
-The Cruise Options: Situated on so many waterways, visitors here can enjoy a boat cruise. You’ll have options for night or day cruises that will take you around the town. The views are stunning and offer a chance for you to see Tongli Ancient Town from a different perspective. Some cruises may offer dining options and other activities as well.
-Wandering The Ancient Streets: Many of the streets still hold their ancient character. They represent the Ming and Qing dynasties well with their architecture and decor. Each street offers something different, with some of them being lined with shops, others being hidden from sight, and a few that line the rivers. The main streets to wander are Mingqing, Dongxi, Xinzhen, Yuxing, Shangyuan, and Fuguan.
-Fuguan Bridge: This bridge may be the most mysterious in Tongli Ancient Town. It features a carving of a peach blossom and fish fossil. The story around it says that the fish swam against the current along a riverbank flourishing with peach blossoms. These fish were hoping to turn into dragons by hopping over the dragon gate in March. However, when passing the bridge, the fish saw a beautiful girl and leaped out of the water. It’s head became that of a dragon while its body remained a fish.
-Siben Bridge: This is the oldest bridge in Tongli. It was built during the Southern Tong dynasty which was from 1127 to 1279. Even after being exposed to the elements for more than 700 years, this bridge still stands in all of its glory.
-Tongli Historic & Cultural Artifacts Exhibition Hall: This is a great place to visit if you’re interested in art, history, and culture. Visitors will find cultural relics, scholarly articles, and artifacts that tell the cultural and historical story of Tongli.
-The Pearl Pagoda: Built in the Qing dynasty, this compound is made up of an opera stage, garden, ancestral hall, and a residential complex which is decorated with antiques.
Tips For Visiting Tongli Ancient Town
-If visiting from Suzhou, the best option is to take the train. There is a bullet train and a slow train option.
-Visitors can take a bus from Suzhou to Tongli and arrive within 35 minutes. The fare is about eight yuan per person.
-Guests to Tongli can stay overnight in hostels, hotels, or guest houses. Many of them are quite modern and offer amenities like WIFI.
-This attraction is great to visit all-year-round. Just avoid public holidays and festivals because it can get quite crowded.
-Make sure to taste the local snacks like shrimp cakes, spring rolls, fish, and turtle.
-Wear good walking shoes because the best way to see the town is on foot.
-Make sure to enjoy some of the local tea while you’re visiting.
-Pick up a few souvenirs while visiting, especially items that come from the sea.