On July 17th, The NSLI-Y group visited a city with over 2,500 years of rich history adjacent to Shanghai in southeast China: Suzhou.
It was raining heavily in the morning in Shanghai. The bus headed west from Shanghai to Suzhou. It seemed that the rain was not gonna stop any sooner but getting heavier as they drove. When the group was almost about to cancel the trip, the rain stopped as they were entering the suburban area of Suzhou. Was it a good sign for the day? Probably yes. Good weather lighted up the mood of the whole group. There is an old saying in China: “Up above there is the Heaven; down below there are Suzhou and Hangzhou.” They couldn’t help wondering what the so-called“Heaven on earth”really look like.
It wan an hour and thirty minutes drive from Shanghai to the first stop of the day’s trip: the Humble Administrator’s Garden (Zhuōzhèng Yuán), the largest garden in Suzhou and the finest garden in all of southern China. Zhuozheng Yuan represents the classic Chinese garden landscape and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The garden was built 500 years ago in Ming Dynasty as a private residence and garden for official Wang Xianchen. The construction of the garden took more than 16 years to complete. The garden contains numerous pavilions and bridges set among a maze of connected pools and islands. Many traditional Chinese architectural structures can be seen in the garden, including pavilions, terraces, towers, waterside pavilions, boats and so on. It’s hard to imagine the complete layout of the garden even though students took a lot of pictures. One has to personally go there to see the garden in its whole beauty.
The group visited Suzhou Silk Factory. It was the first time for most of the student to see the complete life cycle of silk worms and entire production process of silk. It was an eye-opening and amazing experience for them.
In the afternoon the group visited Pan Gate (Pan men)Scenic Area, a famous historical landmark in Suzhou. Originally built during the Warring States Period in the state of Wu, historians estimate it to be around 2,500 years old. Located at the entrance of the area, Ruiguang Pagoda, the earliest pagoda in Suzhou, rises 53.57 meters (175.75 feet) above the ground and is a seven-story pagoda architecture built with brick and wood more than 1,000 years ago. There are many other historical landmarks within the park, including Wu Gate Bridge, Pan Gate, literally referred to as the “Land and Water Gate” because it used to be the only entrance to the wall that surrounded ancient Suzhou, as well as the Temple for General Wu. Many of the ancient architectures came to live from books for the students as they just came across them in Ancient Chinese history in Dr. Chen’s Chinese culture classes.