At one corner of the water canal, you can see some parked gondolas. There you can see birds tied to the boat. They are cormorants. For a small fee, you can see these birds in action, swooping down to the water preying for fish.
Jiayin House was built in 1922 and the owner of the mansion was Liu Bingnan, who was the relative of Liu Yazi (1887–1958), a famous Chinese poet. Liu Yazi had once lived in the house. The front door of Jiayin House is in Shanghai's Shikumen style, which is that the doorframe is built of stone bricks and the door is solid wood.
Ming Dynasty official Zhuxiang, also called Gengle, built this placid retreat after a successful career in government. So pleasant was his home that he seldom left it, earning a reputation as a hermit, albeit a hermit with a 54-room mansion to hole up in. Today, the house retains three courtyards and 41 rooms out of the original layout. The front living quarters lead to a small garden area with a lotus pool. An adjacent zigzag bridge connects to a pavilion.
A legend goes like this: Fang, a young man from a rich and powerful family became poor due to being out of favour with the royal court. He had to borrow money from his aunt in Henan Province, central China, but she scornfully taunted him. Fang's elder female cousin, Chen, had a kind heart and gave him the Pearl Tower, which had been the family treasure for many generations, to help him to go further study. Three years later, Fang attained the top grade in the imperial examination and returned home. He disguised himself as a Taoist monk and sang a satire song to mock his unkind aunt. He eventually married Chen.
Now the Pearl Tower is the reproduction of the ancient story, where Fang had studied.
Forty-nine stone bridges in a variety of styles join the seven islands created by fifteen canals and five lakes upon which Tongli stands. Each bridge has a name and these examples will give you an idea of the poetic nature of the inhabitants. Perhaps the most notable are Peace and Tranquility (Taiping) Bridge, Luck (Jili) Bridge and Lasting Celebration (Changqing) Bridge. These are known as Ternate Bridges as they cross three rivers at their confluence and form a natural ring road.
The small and exquisite Taiping Bridge was built during the reign of emperor Jiaqing of the Qing dynasty. Jili Bridge is an arch bridge and inscribed with age-old couplets describing the beautiful painting-like views at either end. Changqing Bridge, also named Guangli Bridge, was originally constructed in 1470 and rebuilt by Xiezhen in 1704. The oldest bridge in Tongli is Reflecting Origin (Siben) Bridge which was built in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) while the smallest bridge is called Single Step (Dubu) which is only one and a half meters (5 feet) in length and less than one meter (3 feet) wide.
An eye opening museum if ever there was one! Despite the title, this museum is quite tasteful and shouldn't embarrass you that much! It is the first and only museum of its type in China and exhibits over 1,600 items of sex culture from as long ago as 9,000 years to the early 20th century in four parts: Sex in Primitive Society, Marriage and Women, Sex in daily life, and Unusual sexual behaviour! Many of the items were first introduced by China such as chastity belt and sex tools from 3,500 years ago. A must visit whilst in Tongli just for its cheer unique-ness and theme. You can also witness the dirty old Chinese men standing outside the entrance!
This museum is located in a building that overlooks the Gu Feng Garden. The exhibits on display include many different types of wooden and ornate beds, ceramics and some wonderful carved wooden architectural features. More photo's can be found in my travelogues.
The Retreat and Reflection (Tuisi) Garden, was designed by a famous painter, Yuan Long, during 1885 and 1887 and is the most spectacular in Tongli. Its name is derived from an aphorism expressed in a very famous biography called Zuo Zhuan written by Zuo Qiuming in the Eastern Zhou period (770-221 BC): 'Forward to be fully loyal, and retreat to reflect fault'.
The ingenious design for the garden conforms to the local landforms and conditions and covers about 700 square meters. Compact and harmonious, the garden is in two parts. The residential area to the west consists of an outer house and inner house including the sedan hall, the tea hall, a main reception hall and two buildings forming the actual dwelling. The garden in the east has ponds, marble boats, waterside pavilions, halls, kiosks, verandas, rockeries and bridges.
Tongli was one of the most beautiful towns I visited in China and I loved walking around the little streets and canals. Here are just a few scenes from the old town and there's plenty more in my travelogues.
Upon buying the 80 RMB entrance ticket / person you can visit the gardens, scenic spots and Classical Halls for free. I did not find any completion of being entitled only for 4. Actually being a foreigner the locals won't stop you from entering any of such spots rather would welcome you with a gentle smile. The only thing they do is to check your main entrance ticket and then simply punch the name of the garden along the list printed on the ticket.
One more thing...The entrance ticket of "Tong Li" can be bought from Suzhou that would also entitle you a free ride to Tongli town (no need to buy 8 Yuan separate ticket to go to Tong Li). Such ticket is available once you cross the bridge right in front of the Suzhou railway station and ask the locals that you want to go to Tongli.
Lastly..you can also do without the entrance ticket : ) No one checks the tickets at Tongli after 6:00pm. The guys pack up for home : )
But then again, I think we should be nice enough to pay for the fun.
My ratings for the gardens inside Tongli:
1. Tui Si Garden
2. Zhen Zhu Ta
3. GuFeng Garden
4. Gengle Hall
5. Chongben Hall.
6. Songping stone display hall.
Although Tongli is the largest water village in Jiangsu Province, you can basically cover all the main attractions by walking. However, I trust you will have a different experience exploring this water village by boat.
Gondolas rowing across households built along the water canals. It resembles the view in Venice, Italy. No doubt it was described as "Venice of the Orient" by Italian voyager, Marco Polo.
You may rent a boat which costs about RMB60 per trip. It has a capacity of 12 people per boat. The boat tour will bring you sightseeing of three popular bridges, which are Bridge of Peace, Bridge of Auspicious & Bridge of Celebration (loosely translated). The whole journey takes about 30 minutes.
While in the gondola ride, you can observe the daily lives of chinese people living near to the canal, using it as their daily supply of water. They still lead a rustic lifestyle by earning extra income from selling souvenirs / momentos. Sometimes, we are like intruding to their world, disrupting their daily routines.
If you like to experience the traditional chinese wedding, you can try sitting in a sedan chair lifted by two people. They will carry you across the three auspicious bridges & loud music of trumpets & cymbals will accompany you along the way. I'm sure you will steal a lot of the limelight.
There are more than 40 old bridges in this old town. The most famous are Bridge of Peace, Bridge of Auspicious & Bridge of Celebration. Villagers must cross these three bridges during wedding & birth ceremony.
Bridge of Peace brings good health, Bridge of Auspicious brings prosperity in business
& Bridge of Celebration brings longetivity. Thus, many tourists will not miss crossing these three bridges to bring them good luck & health.
Tongli isn't very big and so can be seen in a day. Well, it took my mum and I about five or six hours to look around it, but others have told me they've done it in a morning!
The entrance to the water town is just set back from the main road and there is a huge sign on a wall, so you can't miss it! If you do happen to miss it(!), just follow all the people..they will lead you into it no problem!
You can walk a certain distance before having to pay looking in shop windows or stopping at restaurants, but the main idea is to go there for the rivers and lakes, so pay your 50yuan entrance, and you'll get to see all the sights!
This is a town build about 1000 years ago with canals around the town. Bridges are very important as its the main crossing point around the town. There are 3 bridges in this town which is the main bridge in the town where every newly married couple from Tongli are suppose to cross it for good luck.