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Suzhou is located in the south of Jiangsu province, some 50 miles west of Shanghai, along the ancient Grand Canal. The city has been famous for its gardens for many centuries. According to a Chinese proverb says: "In heaven there is paradise. On earth there are Suzhou and Hangzhou." Suzhou has also long been noted for its beautiful women. The city is dotted with lakes and rivers connected by the large web of canals, which are lined up with whitewashed houses with gray-tiled roofs. Suzhou is one
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of the oldest towns in the Yangtse basin. It was founded in the fifth century B.C., when the King of Wu, He Lu, made it the capital of his Kingdom. The King was said being buried on Tiger Hill after his death, which later became a well-known landmark. The town of Suzhou inherited its current name in 589 AD in the Sui Dynasty, and underwent considerable development in the Tang and Song dynasties. As early as the Song Dynasty, Suzhou was about the same size as it is today. Many of the famous gardens built as early as the 10th century are still intact, and some have been restored to their former beauty. A visit to these gardens could be one of the highlights of one's visit to China. In 1997, the UNESCO put Humble Administrator's Garden, the Garden to Linger In, Fishing-Net Master's Garden, and Circular-Grace Mountain Villa on its world cultural heritage site list. Humble Administrator's Garden and Fishing-Net Master's Garden are open at night so that visitors can attend theatrical performances and enjoy the night scenery.

The Grand Canal

All of the narrow rivers in Suzhou are eventually joined up with the famous waterway known as the Grand Canal, located to the west of the city. It is believed to be the longest internal waterway in the world, and was originally constructed from Beiing to Hangzhou for the transportation of tribute grain from the southern part of China to the northern capital of Beijing. Marco Polo, who visited Suzhou in the 13th century, wrote that "the people has made a huge canal of great width and depth from river to river and from lake to lake and made the water flow along it so that it looks like a big river. By this means it is possible to go ... as far as Khan-balik" (as Beijing was known in the Yuan Dynasty). Although the canal is not used for long-distance transport today, it is still heavily used by a great number of flat-bottomed boats going along the Grand Canal for all kinds of transportation in the southern part of China.

Lingering Garden

Lingering Garden is the best garden in Suzhou and one of the four major gardens in China. It is celebrated for its artistic way of dealing with the small space with various kinds of architectural forms. The garden was built in the year of Wanli (1583 AD) of the Ming dynasty as a private garden within the residence and named East Garden, Which has magnificent multi-storied front houses and rear halls, as well as a range of awe-inspiring stone mountains resembling a long scroll of landscape painting." Later the garden belonged to the Liu's family during the reign of Qianlong (1794 A.D.) of the Qing dynasty. The Owner of the garden was changed later but the name of Lingering Garden was given as the sound of Lingering is similar like Liu in Chinese pronunciation. Today the garden is separated with four parts. The middle part features the man-made hills and lakes, the eastern part is noted for its garden courts and elegant buildings, while the western part is the woody hills, and the cottages with bamboo fences and idyllic scenes are in the north of the garden.

Garden of Master of the Nets

Garden of the Master of the Nets, covering an area of 5400 sqm, is the smallest garden in Suzhou. The garden was laid out during the Song dynasty (960-1279), abandoned, and then restored in the 18th century as part of the residence of a retired official. It was said that the official was tired with the bureaucracy and would rather be a fish-man, hence its name. Being the most exquisite and the best-preserved private garden in Suzhou, the garden is divided into three parts, includes the residential area with guest reception and living quarters, the main garden and the inner garden where the studio and the master's study located.

Constructed in accordance with the strict regulations of feudalism, they are magnificent buildings with extraordinary furnishing and interior decoration with each hall connected to the main garden. There is also a small pond covering an area of only 440 sqm with a tiny arch bridge named Yinjing Bridge built at one side. The most striking feature of this Garden is small in size, but contains with everything that can be seen only in the larger royal gardens, which might also be the feature of Suzhou itself.

Garden of the Humble Administrator

China's gardens generally can be divided into two kinds, the royal garden, represented by the Summer Palace in Beijing and the Mountain Resort of Chengde, while for the private gardens, the best ones can be only seen in Suzhou. The Garden of the Humble Administrator, with a total area of 51,950 sqm, is the largest private garden in Suzhou, and also one of the four most famous classic gardens in China. It was built in 1513 of the Ming dynasty by a retired high ranked official Wang Xianchen, who named this garden by following the essay "To cultivate my garden and sell my vegetables is the policy of humble man".

The feature of the garden is Focused on a central pond with pavilions, terraces, chambers, and towers located nearby, the garden is divided into three parts. The middle part is the cream of the garden with marvelous mountains, clear water, exquisite buildings and exuberant trees and flower reminiscent of the scenery in the south of China. Elaborately conceived, the designer of the garden used the concept, "borrowed view from afar" in the layout of this part, aiming to enlarge eyeshot within a limited space. Looking westward, a pagoda can be seen sitting in the western garden, which actually is situated 1km away from the garden. There are about 700 bonsais put on display in the west garden, which is worth visiting to most of the tourists. The Humble Administrator's Garden is a typical example of the art of horticulture in south of Yangtze River as well as a treasure house containing arts of architecture, calligraphy, carving, painting, and bonsai.

Tiger Hill

Tiger Hill, or Hu Qiu, a few miles northwest of Suzhou, is very popular among visitors. It is supposedly the burial place of the King of Wu. Two different reasons are given for the name of the hill. One is that the entrance gate resembles the mouth of a tiger, and the pagoda on the top of the hill its tail. The other is that when the King of Wu was buried on top of the hill, a tiger is said to have appeared there. On top of the hill is an imposing structure--the pagoda of the Cloud Rock Temple built in 961. It is listed as one of the special historical sites under State protection. The temple courtyard is the highest point on the hill and commands a grand view.

Gold Mountain Temple

The temple is located in the outskirts of Suzhou on a small canal crossed by an old humpbacked bridge. Green foliage hangs down over the saffron walls. The beautiful scenery has inspired many poets throughout history to write memorable poems. In fact, it owes its fame due to the poem "Overnight Stay at Feng Qiao" written by Zhang Ji, a Tang Dynasty poet. The temple's name came from the hermit Han Shan, a Buddhist poet of the Tang Dynasty.

Suzhou embroidery Institute Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute in the Circular-Grace Garden is staffed with a team of top-notch embroidery masters in the tradition of one of China's four eminent schools of embroidery.

Panmen City Gate

Panmen is the oldest city gate in existence in Suzhou and the only one on a river-the oldest section of the Grand anal dug 2,500 years ago. Nearby stands Ruiguang (Auspicious Light) Pagoda, which has a history of 1,000 years. The city gate and the pagoda together form the most distinctive section of the wall of the ancient city of Suzhou.

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