[Travel] Tongli “Venice of the East”, Day 1

On a bright Saturday, Intan (a friend from my Chinese class) and I, decide to visit ancient water city town, Tongli (同里)  and Suzhou (苏州) (you can read about Suzhou a day trip and Suzhou Silk). Several of these cities in China by the Yangtze river, including Tongli and Suzhou is dubbed the “Venice of the East,” for their water canals.

From Shanghai, we take a bus from Shanghai Sightseeing Bus Center  at Shanghai Stadium and arrive at Tongli Passenger Bus Station. The price is 100 CNY (round trip ticket bus, including entrance fee and the 10 attractions inside the city). We take the electricity car to save time for 5 CNY.


Right on the entrance by the bridge, there’s a photoshoot for the marriage couple and probably with their friends. So cute. I wonder if she’s cold? Its’ autumn after all.



Restaurant by the canal


We have lunch, a simple vegetable dish, rice with Chinese tea. Since we’re sitting by the canal, we watch some people trying the boat ride.


Looking cool with just one hand, Grandpa

We pass by the Gengle Tang/ Gengle Hall (耕乐堂, Happy Farming Hall), the largest preserved residence that once belonged to Zhu Xiang, a noble man. There are at least hundreds of many wood carving by Zhang Zheng, famous for root carving into various figures. Almost every room here has wood carving in one way or another.


Buddha Illuminating All Places


Apart from the carving, the houses in Tongli is famous and ancient as long as from the Ming and Qing dynasty, bore the Chinese elements of design as well, from the wooden windows, the arch ceiling and the framing doors, and exquisite gardens. The Zhu’s family house is leaning to Ming style of architecture with a lot of rooms, which we didn’t explore much, and several gardens’ view.


Lovely windows, framing the garden nicely


Zig Zag bridge


Decorative arch ways


Next we visit the The Retreat & Reflection Garden (退思园, Tuìsī Yuán). It’s recognized as the UNESCO heritage of the Suzhou’s classical style garden. The garden was owned by a military commander Ren Lansheng and was designed by a Chinese painter, Yuan Long sparked by a Chinese biography classic “Zuo Zhuan” written by Zuo Qiuming. It was built during the Qing Dynasty with housing complex and garden courts.

An art store with all the paper cutting art. They look nice.

A mirror room reflecting the garden outside


The Garden Floating on Water

The garden surrounding the pond is probably my favorite spot for all the gardens that we visit in Suzhou and Tongli.

I love walking between the alleyways and streets. Out next stop is  Chinese Sex Museumwhich will be in separate post, just because.

After the museum, we sort of just wandering around and explore the ancient city. There are more canals, bridges and boat rides here than Suzhou at least.




Tea house of South Garden


The famous Three Bridges in Tongli form Chinese character “品” and is said crossing all three bridges for marriage, birth and birthday to pray for health and happiness will bring a blessing. Long Live and Prosper (oh wait that’s Vulcan).

The bridges are Taiping Qiao Bridge (太平桥,Tàipíng Qiáo, Heavenly Peace) built in 1747 Qing Dynasty, Jili Qiao (吉利桥, Jílì Qiáo, Luck), and Changqing Qiao Bridge (长庆桥,  Chángqìng Qiáo, Lasting Celebration) built in 1407 Ming Dynasty.


People, tourists from local or foreigners may try the (wedding costume) and these gentlemen will bring the “bride” around all three bridges to meet the “groom”. Everyone within sight will claps and (hollered) maybe throw them some rice for good luck and prosperity.


We eat dinner here with the view of Jili bridge. Lucky too, because 30 minutes late and the whole place is packed. The street with  rows of restaurants and starting to fill.


The day end rather quickly. The lanterns lit up and make a lovely view from the bridge vantage point.

Most stores open in the evening and go into the night. When we pass the street a couple hours before, some stores are not open.

A cool looking postcards and knick knack store. I see the stores in some cities in China. We can send postcard and send gifts in and out China to friends, family and pen friends.

The other store that I like is a Miao ethnic store. Intan is kind enough to model the female custom/dress for me. Look at the lovely embroidery details. Love it!



We stay in Tongli Wanfu Humble Cottage for the night at 350 CYN for two people. Tomorrow is another day and another garden in Tongli.

My 2 days Tongli Suzhou – Tongli trip as followed: Tongli – Day 1, China Sex Museum, Day 2  and Suzhou – Suzhou and Silk Museum.

Source: Travel China Guide, Frommers


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