Tongli gardens

Originally named Fushi, Tongli has a history of more than 1,000 years. Thanks to the lakes and waterways, it stayed away from wars which swallowed many other beautiful towns in ancient times. Its former glory can be found in many well-preserved ancient residential and monastic buildings.

Tongli town is the best -preserved water town in Jiangsu province. It is located in the east of an ancient canal on the shores of Taihu Lake 18 km away from Suzhou city. The town occupies a total area of 62.54 sq. km with a population of 45,500. Surrounded by water Tongli town is set among the five lakes of Tongli, being Jiuli, Yeze, Nanxing, and Pangshan. It is dived into seven islands by 15 rivers and combined into a whole by 49 ancient bridges. Intersected by many rivers, nearly all of the architectures in this town were built facing the water, bestowing Tongli with the name “Venice in the East”. Every corner of the town is connected by waterways and presents the view of “families living by small bridges over flowing waters”.

Tongli, established in the Song Dynasty, has a history of over 1,000 years. Tongli was so preserved as it is not very accessible during ancient times. It is extremely rich in cultural heritage. Traditional residences including gardens, houses and temples, built in the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty, are the highlight of the city. Jiayin Hall built in 1922 is known for its fine carvings on the structure. Congben Hall built in 1911 is also known for its carvings on the structure. There are more than one hundred of well-preserved woodcarvings of traditional figures from Chinese classics.

In water town bridges always play an important role in people’s daily life. There are about 49 bridges in Tongli in which Taiping, Jili, and Changqing bridges are most famous. The three bridges have now become the symbol of the city. Exquisite and simple Taiping Bridge was built in 1747 during the Qing Dynasty, Changqing Bridge is also known as Guangli Bridge, it was rebuilt by Xiezhenin the Ming Dynasty. Siben Bridge, built in the Southern Song Dynasty, is the oldest bridge in Tongli town, Dudu Bridge, 5 feet in length and 3 feet in width, is the smallest bridge in town.

The layout of the town and the residences along both banks retain the traditional style. Occupying forty percent of the total, Ming and Qing buildings, which include grand houses, small exquisite courtyard and gardens, are the highlight of Tongli town. Decorated with flying eaves, brick carvings, elegant windows, they are mostly built towards the water, sometimes with a small garden in their rears. In order to be convenient for washing, small stairs were built in front of the house leading to the river. Due to the charming environment here, in ancient times, many noblemen and distinguish families built their private gardens here in succession. These complexes, featured by the harmonious combination of residential houses and gardens, are especially unique and rare in all other water towns south of Yangtze River. Tuisiyuan Garden which was constructed at Tongli in the end of the 19th century is one of the most beautiful Chinese gardens.