Suzhou – ‘The Venice of the East’, according to Marco Polo, and ‘Heaven on Earth’ according to ancient poets.
It lies on a river delta in southern China, and so the land is fertile and the climate humid. This climate favoured the cultivation of silkworms and Suzhou became the centre of silk-making, sending its rich brocades and intricate embroidery up to the imperial court in Beijing along the Grand Canal for the exclusive use of the Emperor, bringing back wealth and prestige. The growing prosperity of the merchants gave them leisure to create beautiful gardens to boast of their status, and these gardens, laid out centuries ago, still enchant visitors today, as do the waterways that criss-cross the town parallel to the roads, the quaint old houses and graceful bridges.
They say the climate also gives a clear and dewy complexion to the local girls, bestowing the reputation of great beauty on them all!
Zhouzhuang Established in 1086 in the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1126) Zhouzhuang is set in charming surroundings with simple ancient buildings and beautiful rivers and lakes. Over half of the buildings in the town were constructed in the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties.
The Humble Administrator’s Garden was built during 1506 and 1512 in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) and covers an area of 4.8 hectares, three quarters of which are water. It is regarded as one of the four major gardens in China along with the Summer Palace in Beijing, the Mountain Summer Resort in Chengdu and the Garden to Linger In in Suzhou.
Grand Canal The ancient Grand Canal, 1,700 km in length, is a wonder of the ancient Chinese civilisation, with a history of 2,400 years. The canal starts from Beijing and ends at Hangzhou.
The Garden to Linger In was built during the reign of Emperor Jia Jing (1522 – 1566) and has the reputation as one of the four major gardens in China. The Garden to Linger In is beautifully arranged and elegant.
Pan Gate is an ancient gateway, with both land and water entrances, a typical style in ancient China and now the only one left.