Tiger Hill, the Surging Sea Hill in Suzhou

Tiger Hill, known also as Surging Sea Hill, is a large hillock covering about 3.5 acres and only 118 feet in height. Climbing it, you will find a number of historical sites some of which can be traced back over 2,500 years to the founding of Suzhou. Although the hill is relatively small it has rich history. These are just some of the highlights of what to be found there.

In 496 BC during the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC-476 BC), He Lu, King of the Wu State perished during the war fought against the Yue State. His son buried him on the hill and three days after the funeral a white tiger came and sat upon the grave as though guarding it. From that time on it has been known as Tiger Hill.

The pagoda stands on the hill’s summit and is the Pagoda of the Yunyan Temple. As the oldest pagoda in the vicinity of Suzhou it has come to be a symbol of the city and has the distinction of being China’s Leaning Tower. Built during the Northern Song Dynasty (959-961), it is a seven-storey octagonal tower following the style of the timber pagodas built during the early Tang Dynasty (618-907). It is 158 feet high and for the past four hundred years has leant 3.59 degrees to the northwest.

King He Lu was a zealous collector of rare swords and it is said that he tested them upon this stone. The crevice thus made in the rock is the only evidence of the existence of these swords, as it is believed that they were buried beneath the Sword Pool as funerary objects. Another mystery that surrounds the tomb is the whereabouts of the remains of the 1,000 workers who built it and who were put to death upon completion of the task.

Built in the tenth year of the reign of Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the villa is a masterpiece of the splendid gardens for which Suzhou is so famous. As the only garden without lakes or pools in Suzhou, the villa distinguishes itself from others. It was constructed according to the outline of the hill with exquisite pavilions, paths, and decorated by luxuriant woods and flowers. The Verdant Mountain Villa was designed so that it embraced the natural vistas and views from the halls and porches, which are the most pleasing to the eye.

The ancient art of bonsai tree growing originated in China and there are hundreds of magnificent specimens on display at this villa. Many of the specimens you can see have been awarded prizes in prestigious bonsai competitions. The miniature replicas of full-sized gardens are sure to amaze you and will give an insight into the skill and artistry of Chinese master gardeners that has been handed down from long ago.

There can be little doubt that Tiger Hill is a wonderful sight with its leaning pagoda, waterfalls and landscaped paths. It is hard to believe that it was man made to be the cemetery of king but this is yet another part of the wonder in China, a land that will never cease to amaze and enthral the visitor with its heritage.

Epidemic Situation Report in Guilin & Guangxi

By China Expedition Tours, Source from Guangxi Health Commission

Released time: Feb 19, 2020

During the period from 0:00 to 24:00 on February 18, 2 new confirmed cases of pneumonia were found in Guangxi, including 1 in Yulin and 1 in Hechi.

At present, 244 confirmed cases and 76 discharged cases have been reported (18 new cases on February 18). There are 2 severe cases, 8 critical cases. No new death case on February 18.

In total, 54 cases were confirmed in Nanning, 24 in Liuzhou, 31 in Guilin, 5 in Wuzhou, 44 in Beihai, 18 in Fangchenggang, 8 in Qinzhou, 8 in Guigang , 11 in Yulin, 3 in Baise, 4 in Hezhou, 23 in Hechi and 11 in Laibin.

At present, 15406 close contacts have been traced and 1478 cases are still under medical observation.

Shantang Street, the Seven-Li Shantang in Suzhou

Shantang Street, an ancient riverside pedestrian road in northwest Suzhou, Jiangsu, is very popular with tourists. From Changmen Gate (the west gate of the ancient city) in the downtown, it winds northwest on the northern bank of the Shantang River, and ends at scenic Tiger Hill. It extends about 2.2 miles (seven li), hence the name ‘Seven-Li Shantang’.

Shantang Street can be sectioned into two by Bantang Bridge. The east part, from Duseng Bridge in Changmen, is built up with houses and shops; while the west part, from the Tiger Hill, is natural landscape. The entire block features typical characteristics of south China in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. The clear river meanders along under small arched bridges interspersed with wooden boats adrift, passing numerous old residences and shops on the bustling street. All the above is a picturesque rendering of a beautiful ancient water town in south China. It is ideally a place to stroll, try all kinds of local snacks and pick up souvenirs. You should go boating to take in the street scene from a different angle. When night falls and the red lanterns glimmer below the eaves, it becomes hard to resist.

The old street sector is about 360 meters long. Although it fills only one tenth of the length, it has the essence of the Shantang block and is called the ‘miniature of the old Suzhou’ and the ‘window of Jiangsu culture’. It was a commodities hub, where merchants conducted business and community staged folk activities. It was one of the most eventful streets in Ming and Qing Dynasties. Qing Emperor Qianlong liked the Shantang Street very much. When he toured Suzhou in 1762, he left words to praise the wonderful scene.

Nowadays the street reflects prosperity of both the present and the bygone era, with numerous shops and commercial guild halls. Tourists can try various snack shops with time-honored brands, including Caizhizhai, Wufangzhai and Qianshengyuan. There are also many specialty shops selling featured souvenirs like wood engravings, stones carvings and embroideries. There are eight side bridges on the riverbanks and seven bridges spanning across the river, and the most famous one is Tonggui Bridge, a single arch stone bridge. It is 21 yards long and 2.5 yards wide. Looking like a half moon, the arch of bridge and its shadow in the water form a perfect circle. The bridge is not unique, but it is the most photographed. It is worth a boating trip to experience the life of ancient residents there.

Epidemic Situation Report in Guilin & Guangxi

By China Expedition Tours, Source from Guangxi Health Commission

Released time: Feb 18, 2020

During the period from 0:00 to 24:00 on February 17, 4 new confirmed cases of pneumonia were found in Guangxi, including 3 in Nanning and 1 in Beihai.

At present, 242 confirmed cases and 58 discharged cases have been reported. There are 3 severe cases, 7 critical cases. No new death case on February 17.

In total, 54 cases were confirmed in Nanning, 24 in Liuzhou, 31 in Guilin, 5 in Wuzhou, 44 in Beihai, 18 in Fangchenggang, 8 in Qinzhou, 8 in Guigang , 10 in Yulin, 3 in Baise, 4 in Hezhou, 22 in Hechi and 11 in Laibin.

At present, 15106 close contacts have been traced and 1719 cases are still under medical observation.

Epidemic Situation Report in Guilin & Guangxi

By China Expedition Tours, Source from Guangxi Health Commission

Released time: Feb 17, 2020

During the period from 0:00 to 24:00 on February 16, 1 new confirmed cases of pneumonia were found in Nanning, Guangxi.

At present, 238 confirmed cases and 51 discharged cases have been reported. There are 4 severe cases, 7 critical cases. No new death case on February 16.

In total, 51 cases were confirmed in Nanning, 24 in Liuzhou, 31 in Guilin, 5 in Wuzhou, 43 in Beihai, 18 in Fangchenggang, 8 in Qinzhou, 8 in Guigang , 10 in Yulin, 3 in Baise, 4 in Hezhou, 22 in Hechi and 11 in Laibin.

At present, 14878 close contacts have been traced and 1984 cases are still under medical observation.

The Master of Nets Garden, the Hall of Ten Thousand Books

This exquisite Master of Nets Garden was first designed during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) as a residence for a government official. At that time, the garden was named “the Hall of Ten Thousand Books” because the owner housed numerous books in three studies within the garden. Later on, it went through vicissitudes in different dynasties until an official named Song Zongyuan bought and restored the garden around 1765 in the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). It is said that in a moment of frustration with bureaucracy he declared that he would rather be a fisherman than a bureaucrat. Therefore, he changed the name of this garden to “Wangshi Yuan”, meaning a fisher’s garden in English, to express his will.

The Master of Nets Garden is divided into three sections: a residential section, the central main garden and an inner garden. The main garden has a large pond that is surrounded by pathways and a variety of buildings such as the Ribbon Washing Pavillion (Zhuoying Shuige) and the Pavillion for the Advent of the Moon and Wind (Yuedao Fenglai Ting). There are many more buildings that are situated so that there is never a sense of crowding, but always of spaciousness. As is common in Suzhou gardens, the pond has a small pavilion in it. Here the pavilion is accessible by a bridge that is less than one foot wide.

As you walk about the gardens and along the walkways, you can often see beautiful flowers or plants through delicate windows which frames the scenery from a distance and draw you to a single sight, a moment of peaceful natural beauty. As you walk through the buildings, it is easy to imagine the life that the original residents lived in a feudal society where these gardens were solely for their pleasure and the pleasure of their guests.  The various buildings are constructed so that you can always access the main garden from any room.

The inner garden Dian Chun Yi which is only about 660 square feet, has the distinction of being used as the model for the Ming Hall Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and also completely miniaturized for an exhibit in the Pompidou Center in Paris in 1982. This garden is reputed to be the most well-preserved one in Suzhou and should not be missed. It is small in size, but is like a beautifully cut diamond whose beauty is of everlasting fascination and pleasure.

Lion Grove Garden, the Representative Garden of the Yuan Dynasty

Lion Grove Garden was built in 1342 during the Yuan Dynasty. Afterwards, it has changed hands and been renamed a number of times. Since Monk Tianru had once researched the Buddhism sutras at Lion Cliff on West Tianmu Mountain in Zhejiang Province with the guidance of Monk Zhongfeng, also there were many grotesque rocks in the garden resembling lions, the garden was first given the name Lion Grove. At that time, the garden was a popular center to host activities for literati and Buddhists. Many paintings and poems were inspired by it. Later, its name was changed to Bodhi Orthodox Temple and Sheng’en Temple successively.

Covering an area of about 2.7 acres, Lion Grove Garden is an ideal sightseeing site as it has richly ornamental pavilions and towers in different styles; each has its own history and story. True Delight Pavilion (Zhenquting) is said to be the most magnificent in the garden due to its royal style. Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty, who visited it six times, in 1765, inscribed its plaque.

The name of Standing-in-Snow Hall (Lixuetang) came from a Buddhist story about a pure-hearted Zen adherent standing in snow for a whole night to worship his master. Pavilion for Greeting the Plum Blossoms (Wenmeige) was a place where painters and poets indited. In addition to the plum trees around the pavilion, all the furnitures and utensils inside are decorated or carved with beautiful plum blossom designs. Furthermore, many rare tablets and steles, paintings and calligraphies are kept in Lion Grove Garden, including precious artwork ‘Panoramic View of Lion Grove Garden’ by Ni Yunlin, also called Ni Zan, and the ‘Twelve Scenic Spots in Lion Grove Garden’ by Xu Ben, both were famous painters from the Ming Dynasty.

However, as the representative garden of the Yuan Dynasty, the most noted and attractive scenery of the garden is the labyrinthine rockery, which was mostly made of the limestone from Taihu Lake in Wuxi City. Reputed as the ‘Kingdom of Rockery’, the rocks were piled up skillfully and ingeniously, and most of them look like lions in different postures and verves: playing, roaring, fighting, sleeping, or even dancing. It is said that looking north from Small Square Hall (Xiaofangting), one can see nine stone lions standing in a row and that is the Nine-Lion Peak. Due to the changes and ravages of the time and climate, the peak now only bears little resemblance to the lions. There are altogether 9 paths and 21 caverns cross among the steep peaks, sharp crags and narrow valleys made up by countless grotesque rocks. Walking through those numerous winding pathways and caverns of the anfractuous stone forest, one could easily lose one’s way. With the age-old pines and cypress trees, the whole landscapes represent scenes of real mountains and forests.

The whole structure of Lion Grove Garden shows a flavor of Zen Buddhism and is an apotheosis of the gardens’ constructions. A part of the Imperial Summer Resort of the Qing Dynasty in Chengde of Hebei Province was a mimic of this garden. The garden occupies a very important place in history, representing the diversity of cultural and architectural development in Suzhou over the years.

Epidemic Situation Report in Guilin & Guangxi

By China Expedition Tours, Source from Guangxi Health Commission

Released time: Feb 16, 2020

During the period from 0:00 to 24:00 on February 15, 2 new confirmed cases of pneumonia were found in Guangxi, including 1 in Nanning and 1 in Fangchenggang.

At present, 237 confirmed cases and 46 discharged cases have been reported. There are 3 severe cases, 6 critical cases. The second death case in Guangxi occurred in Beihai.

In total, 50 cases were confirmed in Nanning, 24 in Liuzhou, 31 in Guilin, 5 in Wuzhou, 43 in Beihai, 18 in Fangchenggang, 8 in Qinzhou, 8 in Guigang , 10 in Yulin, 3 in Baise, 4 in Hezhou, 22 in Hechi and 11 in Laibin.

At present, 14564 close contacts have been traced and 1990 cases are still under medical observation.

Zhonghua Gate, the Biggest Castle-style City Gate in China

Zhonghua Gate is the South Gate of Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. As a precious cultural relic, it has the double characteristics of the largest castle gate in China and the most complex castle in the world. It is the magnificent scale, exquisite structure and superb construction technology of this castle that have left an important position in China’s military and architectural traditions.

Construction of the castle took twenty-one years, from 1366 to 1387. The Zhonghua Gate, originally called the ‘Gate of Gathering Treasure’ carries a legend from the time of its creation in the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). According to the legend, when Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, had the gate built, the ground kept sinking. The gate collapsed again and again. It was not until a treasure bowl was buried underground that it stood firm. In 1931, to commemorate the revolution of 1911 and the Republic of China (1919-1949) that emerged as a result, the Gate of Gathering Treasure was renamed Zhonghua Gate. In Chinese Pinyin, Republic of China is written as Zhonghua Minguo.

Nanjing was the capital of China during the Ming Dynasty under the reign of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang. Zhu Di, the son of Zhu Yuanzhang, moved the capital to Beijing in 1420. In 1366, Zhu Yuanzhang began to build a wall around the city of Nanjing to defend it from attack. The Gate of Gathering Treasure was built on the site of a previous gate, the south gate of the city built during the Later Tang Dynasty (923 – 936). The new one, the grandest among the thirteen gates of the new castle, was an architecturally complex structure composed of three closed courtyards and four arched doors serving as the entrance. There were double paneled wooden doors and with additional stone door set behind. If the enemy broke through the wooden doors, they could be separated and trapped in the three closed courtyards upon dropping the stone doors.

Twenty-seven tunnels were built in the castle to store large quantities of food and weapons and to hold approximately 3,000 soldiers. Wide and steep ramps were built on the east and west side to allow people to carry materials upward. The entire structure was built with massive bricks mortared together with special cement made from lime, sticky rice juice and tung oil. In order to guarantee the quality of the construction, every brick underwent a strict quality control process. The brick makers and builders were ordered to mark their names on each brick. Even today, it is possible to find Chinese characters and numbers on the bricks. No doubt, this detailed attention to quality of construction is one of the reasons why the condition of the castle remains so remarkably good today.

Epidemic Situation Report in Guilin & Guangxi

By China Expedition Tours, Source from Guangxi Health Commission

Released time: Feb 15, 2020

During the period from 0:00 to 24:00 on February 14, 9 new confirmed cases of pneumonia were found in Guangxi, including 2 in Nanning , 2 in Liuzhou, 1 in Yulin, 1 in Hechi and 3 in Beihai.

At present, 235 confirmed cases and 40 discharged cases have been reported. There are 6 severe cases, 6 critical cases. The second death case in Guangxi occurred in Beihai.

In total, 49 cases were confirmed in Nanning, 24 in Liuzhou, 31 in Guilin, 5 in Wuzhou, 43 in Beihai, 17 in Fangchenggang, 8 in Qinzhou, 8 in Guigang , 10 in Yulin, 3 in Baise, 4 in Hezhou, 22 in Hechi and 11 in Laibin.

At present, 14280 close contacts have been traced and 2397 cases are still under medical observation.