Introduction to Tongli Water Town (同里水乡)
Tongli Water Town is encircled by 5 lakes outside and divided by 15 rivers. Tongli is out of question an authentic water town. It is 18 kilometers from Suzhou and now is the most well-preserved ancient town in Jiangsu province. With thousands of years, this town has affluent history as well as splendid today.
Its original name is Fu Tu, literally meaning prosperous land in Chinese. People lived prosperously here. And there were also many rich families immigrated to Tongli. In early Tang Dynasty, local government tried to play low profile and changed to the current name Tongli (Tong means copper in Chinese, less precious than gold).
Nowadays in this small town, there are altogether 38 gardens and mansions, 47 temples and clan halls, 55 ancient bridges and hundred of former residences of local celebrities. The most famous spot in the town is Tuisi Garden. Tuisi means recluse and meditation in Chinese. It has been enrolled in the list of World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
Built from the Song Dynasty, the town already has a history of over one thousand years. There are hundreds of gardens, temples, mansions and the former residences of celebrities built from 1271 to 1911 during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Amongst the famous gardens are Tuisiyuan, constructed between 1885 and 1887 by an imperial scholar, Chongbentang, and Jiayin Tang garden.?
Tongli Town is a famous ancient village of rivers and lakes. 23 kilometres to the north is Suzhou City. To the north of the town is Jiuli Lake, to the east is Tongli Lake, to the south is Nanxing Lake and to the west is Pangshan Lake. Tong Li is one of several towns on the outskirts of Suzhou known as Little Venice. There are roads, but the main arteries through the town are the canals. The ancient town is part of Suzhou's sightseeing tours.
Tongli enjoys fame across China for its beautiful rivers, historic bridges and opulent court yard homes. With a history spanning over 1000 years. Travellers are drawn to this water town by its architecture and waterways but also the vibrant local culture.
The surface of the town is in the shape of a rough circle, surrounded by the inner, middle and outer rivers. It is divided into 7 pieces of land with different sizes, with the water area occupying one-fifth of the total town area. In the town streets two rivers run parallel to each other.
Because of the landscape, almost all of the buildings are constructed along the waterfront. Sets of stairs leading to the canals can be found in front of almost every building, providing locals with easy access to the water. Not surprisingly, life in this picturesque town pretty much revolves around the waterways. Everyday you can see locals venturing down to the water to wash clothes. Apart from that, the canals also serve as the town's main mode of transport.
The layout of the town and the residences along both banks retain the traditional style.The buildings of the Ming and Qing Dynasties account for almost 40% of all buildings in the town. Many of them are large residences, and the largest has 9 rows of houses.
Jiayin Hall was established in the traditional style although it was built in the 1910's. It was where a well-known scholar Liu Yazi lived in his early years. The other is Jiaben Hall, built in the Late Qing Dynasty. Both halls have 4 rows and 3 bays. On the beams are fine carvings. Over a winding river near the two halls are three ancient bridges named "Peace", "Luck" and "Glory" in an arch or flat shape.
Tuisi Garden, Nanyuan Teahouse, Chongben Hall, Pearl Tower, Three Bridges Scenic Area