Ultimate guide to Suzhou, China's 'paradise on earth'

Suzhou is known for its Jiangnan-style gardens dating back to as far as the sixth century. (Jiangnan generally refers to the area south of the Yangtze River Yangtze River tour and north of Wuyi Mountain).

The canals are the forte of Suzhou and the reason for its being known as “The Venice of the East.”

Tiger Hill (虎丘)

Although only 36 meters high, this hill is said to resemble a crouching tiger and is marked by intricately woven pathways and pagodas. The landmark is a must for history buffs and anyone up for a stroll.

"Tiger Hill is the most popular attraction that we recommend [to travelers to Suzhou]," says Eileen Wang, who works for Travel China Guide and is responsible for trip-planning to major Chinese tourist destinations.

"It's Suzhou's top draw," adds Wang.

The hill is also the burial site of King Helv, who ruled the State of Wu from 514-496 B.C.

The most iconic feature of Tiger Hill is the Yunyan Temple Pagoda last minute China travel deals. Built in 961, the tower leans at roughly three degrees because of a faulty foundation and is often referred to as the “Leaning Tower of China.”

Admission fee is RMB 40 from October 31-April 5 and RMB 60 from April 6-October 30.

Humble Administrator’s Garden (拙政园)

The largest garden in Suzhou -- nearly 52,000 square meters -- the Humble Administrator’s Garden was built in the Ming Dynasty for a former government worker and poet, Wang Xianchen.

With water as the main theme, the lake in the center of the garden occupies about 20 percent of the space and is filled with giant lotus plants in summer.

Along with bridges, pavilions and islands, the architecture of the buildings retains Ming Dynasty characteristics. The garden gets its name after Wang’s desire to retire from politics and live a humble life.

"When walking in that garden, I couldn't help imagine the life that the humble administrator lived two or three centuries ago," says Chloe Liu, 20, a student of East China Normal University.

Coming to Suzhou for a day trip from Shanghai, Liu adds that "the garden strikes me with its delicate layout and mysterious atmosphere."

Admission is RMB 50 from October 31-April 5 and RMB 70 from April 6-October 30.

Lingering Garden (留园)

Located outside of the Changmen gate, which was the west gate of ancient Suzhou, Lingering Garden top 10 China tours is tagged one of the four best classical gardens in China, together with Humble Administrator’s Garden, the Summer Palace in Beijing and the Summer Resort in Chengde.

The garden was damaged several times, especially during the Sino-Japanese War, but has since been repaired.

“Lingering Garden” means lingering between Heaven and Earth. The Chinese name “Liu” also sounds similar to the surname of the former owner, Liu Shu.

The garden hosts occasional free outdoor opera performances that take place in the garden courtyard during admission hours.

Admission is RMB 30 from October 31-April 5 and RMB 40 from April 6-October 30.

Jinji Lake (金鸡湖)

Jinji Lake, or literally golden rooster lake, is the centerpiece of sino-Singapore jointly ventured Suzhou Industrial Park.

Roughly two square kilometers bigger than Hangzhou’s iconic West Lake, the lake makes for a good summertime wandering.

The 1,400-meter dam Li Gong Di (李公堤) contains a waterside leisure area with trendy nightclubs, Western restaurants and spas.

Take a ride on the lakeside Ferris wheel for a bird’s-eye view of Jinji and Suzhou’s modern blocks. With a diameter of 120 meters, this is the biggest waterside wheel in China.

The lake also hosts a multi-media evening musical fountain show every weekend, with the tallest water columns reaching 108 meters. Free of charge, the show takes place at Jinji Lake’s West City Plaza from 8 p.m. on the evenings of weekend and public China holidays.
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