Tongli Water Town in Suzhou

Why is Tongli Water Town So Special?

Tongli was built in the Song Dynasty and has a history of more than 1,000 years. It has a very rich cultural heritage. Due to its long history and unique beauty, Tongli was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List together with Zhouzhuang and Luzhi in 2004. With China’s rapid modernization, a large number of historical towns have disappeared under bulldozers, leaving only a few well-preserved historical towns today.

Where is Tongli Water Town

Tongli Ancient Town is located in Wujiang District, Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province. It is easy to reach Tongli Watertown in neighboring cities such as Wuxi, Suzhou or Shanghai. It is about 18 kilometers from Suzhou and 80 kilometers from Shanghai.

History of Tongli Water Town

Tongli is a town with profound cultural background and achievements. Since ancient times, there have been many poets, painters, Confucian scholars and government officials. Their ability has made great contributions to the progress of the country in many fields. Dozens of stone tablets of different periods are preserved here, and many streets are named after their official names. People will certainly appreciate the pristine and intoxicating atmosphere of this ancient water village. In 1981 Tongli was declared one of the 13 national standard tourist towns in Taihu Lake region. In addition, in 1982, it was listed as the standard provincial cultural ancient town in Jiangsu Province for protection.

Main Attractions of Tongli Water Town

Ancient Bridge

These are important connections between different parts of the town. 49 stone bridges of different styles connect the 7 islands of Tongli Town, which are composed of 15 rivers and 5 lakes. Each bridge has a name. These examples will help you understand the poetry of the residents. Perhaps the most famous bridges are Peace and Tranquility Bridge (Taiping Bridge), Lucky Bridge (Li Ji Bridge) and Enduring Celebration Bridge (Changqing Bridge). These bridges are called cat’s paw bridges because they cross three rivers at the junction and form a natural circular road.

Residential Houses

Tongli Watertown enjoys the reputation of “Museum of Ancient Architecture” because there are many houses and temples in Ming and Qing Dynasties. These buildings are built on the riverside and decorated with cornices, carved windows, porcelain furniture, decorative clay bricks, neat gardens and small stairs leading to the water surface, which means Tongli is a bright pearl in the Jiangnan watery region.

Jiayin Hall and Congben Hall

Jiayin Hall was built in 1922 and is famous for its exquisite architectural sculpture. The industrial hall built in 1911 is also famous for its architectural sculpture. There are more than 100 well-preserved wood carvings of traditional Chinese figures. Both halls are traditional Chinese buildings and are well protected.

The Retreat & Reflection Garden

One of most notable attractions in the water town is the Retreat & Reflection Garden (Tuisiyuan Garden), which lies in the center of the town. It is a private garden owned by Ren Lansheng with its landscapes of pavilions, towers, terraces and a man-made lake, and it was built in 1885-1887 and designed by Yuanlon. In 2001, the Retreat & Reflection Garden was recognized with other classical Suzhou gardens as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Pearl Tower

This is not a real tower, it is just a model made of pearls. Moreover, this is the name of a famous drama. This is where the touching story between Qin Fang and Cui Chen took place. Qin Fang’s father was deported by the court. So he went to his aunt for help, but when her aunt heard the bad news about Fang Zhouzi, she looked down upon the poor and refused to help him. But his cousin was very kind and secretly gave the Pearl Tower to Qin Fang. Later, Qin Fang became the number one scholar.

Best Time to Travel Tongli Water Town

March-April and September-October are the best travel times in Tongli Water Town.

But in Hangzhou, there is no season or weather. No matter in spring, summer, autumn and winter, rain or shine, rain or snow, it can conjure up a beautiful appearance. September-November: The weather is crisp in autumn, and sweet osmanthus trees full of Longgui rain are fragrant for ten miles. Before and after the Mid-Autumn Festival, you can watch the spring tide in Qiantang during the day and enjoy the moon in the lake at night. March-May: The spring breeze is warm and the spring water is intoxicating. It is most suitable for strolling along the Suzhou Creek and enjoying the flowers.

How to Get There

  • From Suzhou:
    1. Take a bus from the north square of Suzhou Railway Station or from Suzhou North Bus Station/South Bus Station, at a fare of CNY 8.
    2. Take Rail Transit Line 4 and get off at Tongli Station. Then transfer to the tourist bus bound for the north entrance of Tongli. If you have the entrance ticket of Tongli Town, you can take the bus for free. The bus departs every 30 minutes between 08:00 and 17:00. Or you can take bus 725 from the subway station, and get off at Shipailou Station. Walk for 200 meters (220 yards) northward and you can see the south entrance of the town.
    Suzhou Bus Search
  • From Shanghai:
    Take a tourist bus from the General Station of the Shanghai Tour Bus Center or Hongkou Branch to the town.
  • From Hangzhou:
    Take a bus from Hangzhou North Bus Station to Tongli. The bus runs respectively at 07:50, 10:35 and 12:55.

Useful Travel Tips

Admission Fee CNY 100 (including 10 scenic spots)
Free of charge for children below 4.6 feet (1.4 meters).
1. The ticket is valid for two days at most. Tourists who plan to stay overnight have to declare when buying the tickets and get the tickets stamped at the ticket office.
2. One can enter the town without a ticket from 18:00 to 6:00 the next morning, but can not visit any of the scenic spots inside without a ticket.
Opening Hours The town is open all day long.
The scenic spots inside are open from 7:30 to 17:30;
The Retreat and Reflection Garden has an additional open from 18:30 to 21:30 on the weekends in summertime.
Boat CNY 90 for a rowboat
A boat allows six people at most and a cruise takes about half an hour.
Sightseeing Car CNY 10 per person
  • If you want to walk longer, be sure to bring a pair of comfortable shoes.
  • Whether you are traveling to West Lake or Hangzhou, bicycles are very good choices. 

Nearby Attractions

Edited by Doreen/张洋