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Suzhou is a modern and ancient masterpiece

WHAT are your favorite places in Suzhou? There can be hundreds of different answers to this question. There are, however, two places frequently mentioned by the locals and expats — Pingjiang Road and Suzhou Museum.

Both venues have a long history, but now are shining with new features in the new era. They have never lost their charm as time passes by.

Take Pingjiang Road for example. The street has been there for more than 800 years. It was named after the city of Suzhou, at the time Pingjiang, during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

Along the Pingjiang River, the road is believed to be the most well-preserved part of the old town. It connects several well-known classic gardens in the city, such as the Humble Administrator’s Garden and the Master-of-Nets Garden.

There is no place better than here to grasp the idea of a “watertown in the Yangtze River Delta,” but the reason locals chose this place as their favorite is probably because it gathers almost all Suzhou cuisine on the 1-kilometer-long street.

The stores are open in the old white houses with gray tiles on the roof, and the taste of the food, as well as the atmosphere of the stores, takes people back to a bygone era.

Apart from traditional food, exotic flavors, such as gelato and Western-style baking goods, are also available on the street. After all, you need to keep up with the time to maintain the attraction.

“Also, compared with other old streets in Suzhou, such as Guanqian Street and Shantang Street, Pingjiang Road is usually quieter despite its location,” says Betty Zhang, a local resident. “I hope it can stay like this because I just enjoy this place too much.”

If Pingjiang Road provides food for the body, then Suzhou Museum offers food for the spirit.

Next to the Humble Administrator’s Garden, the museum is often a second choice for visitors who don’t stay long in the city, but it is worth half a day to learn the history and culture of the city here.

The museum collects unearthed relics, traditional Chinese paintings and calligraphy works and other cultural treasures, including bronze wares, jade wares and porcelain wares. But many people don’t go there for the collections, they go to see the museum building, which is designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei.

The building combines traditional Suzhou style with modern features. Glasses and steels are widely use to resolve the lighting issues that always seem to trouble traditional Chinese buildings.

“The place is so beautiful that you might actually neglect the collections,” says Meng Laoshu, a visitor. “Especially when it is drizzling, the whole museum, looking from outside, with water, walls and stone pavements, looks like an ink-wash painting. It is a true masterpiece.”

The museum moved into its current building in 2006. Before that, since its founding in 1960, it was located in the Prince Zhong’s Mansion (Zhong Wang Fu), the residence of Li Xiucheng (1823-64), a leader of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (1851-64).

The residence is right next to the new museum building and people can walk there from inside the museum.

It is the biggest existing relic of the kingdom. Although it has been through several wars and other incidents during the past century, the construction was still relatively well preserved. The fresco all over the walls and roof is the most eye-catching feature of the attraction.

The residence is right next to the new museum building and people can walk there from inside the museum.

Johnson Wang

General manager of DoubleTree by Hilton Suzhou

Suzhou really looks like a sublime two-sided embroidery, when the 2,500-year-old city combines with the new Suzhou-Singapore Industrial Park. What impresses me the most in Suzhou is Pingjiang Road — an old street parallel with one river in the downtown. I quite enjoy the slow pace of life with a boat cruise through ancient architecture there and experience tranquility while I walk along the alley. You may not see luxurious houses, but you will still observe prosperity and rich cultural heritage in this city.

Romain Chan

Area general manager of Pan Pacific Hotels Group — China
and general manager of Pan Pacific Suzhou

As we know, Suzhou Museum is a trove of ancient Chinese paintings, calligraphy and handmade crafts, where you can get to know Suzhou and China better as a visitor, especially a foreign traveler. The architecture of the museum, designed by Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei is worth a tour as well. Suzhou is also famous for its unique classic gardens. I personally invite all friends to visit Suzhou and stay at our garden-style hotel, with free access to the adjoining Pan Men Scenery.

Chris Ip

General manager of Novotel Suzhou SIP

What fascinates me about Suzhou is its aged memories. Pingjiang Road is one of my favorites.

It is better to stay and not to visit on weekends or holidays as it turns into a popular hawker food street, which simply one cannot bear. So the best time to go would be on a weekday or late evenings.

Parallel with a narrow 10-meter-wide canal on the side, an old granite stone path has been renovated but it still feels nostalgic looking at houses of 200 to 300 years ago. It’s hard to imagine that this was once the hustle and bustle of an ancient city.

The more this place can sustain, the more treasurable it will become in future.

Raymond Tang

General manager of Hyatt Regency Suzhou

 

Suzhou Museum is the most impressive place that I have explored, not only because it is designed by one of the greatest architects, I. M. Pei, but the overall style of landscape and architecture mixes both the features of ancient times and modern day, which is reflecting the city of Suzhou nowadays, as well as illustrating the classical styles and contemporary elements.


 

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