Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Day Trip in Jiangsu Province: Suzhou

Student bloggers Alexandra Hansen (Certificate ‘18) and Emily Rivera (Certificate ‘18) reflect on a day-trip this semester to Suzhou, where they explored famous gardens, ancient streets, and walked along Suzhou’s iconic canals. 

Suzhou, located in Jiangsu province, is known for its canals, bridges, and classical gardens.

While studying in Nanjing, students often take the opportunity to travel to nearby cities to explore the various cultural and historical sites China has to offer. Earlier in the semester, we traveled to Suzhou for the day to learn about the ancient water city and the famous Classical Gardens of Suzhou, which were added to the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1997. Suzhou, known as the “Venice of China,” is only a 90-minute bullet-train ride away from Nanjing, so after a quick breakfast we hopped on the train.

As green and beautiful as Nanjing is, Suzhou offers a completely different landscape. From the train to our first stop, we walked through swerving alleyways, passed boats humming along Suzhou’s Grand Canal, and bargained with local shop owners to purchase local Suzhou goods/souvenirs. The season was changing from winter to spring, so flowers were slowly beginning to bloom, and trees were gaining back their color.

Suzhou’s famous Humble Administrator’s Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest and most renowned classical landscape garden in Suzhou.

Our first destination in Suzhou was the Humble Administrator’s Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous gardens in Suzhou. The site is known for its distinctive mix of nature, residences, and water features.  Built during the Ming Dynasty in 1509, the garden has a lengthy history and hosts many tourists who travel to appreciate its beauty. After our stroll in the garden, we enjoyed a nice jiaozi lunch. We also made it to Suzhou in time for China’s Lantern Festival. China’s Lantern Festival, or the Spring Lantern Festival, is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar Chinese calendar and marks the final day of the Chinese New Year celebrations. After lunch, we treated ourselves to an order of tangyuan, a traditional Chinese dessert eaten during this festival.

The four distinct sections of Lingering Garden are connected by a 770-yard long corridor and are bordered by walls of engraved calligraphy.

After visiting the Humble Administrator’s Garden, we headed to another classical Suzhou garden called Lingering Garden. The garden was originally a classical private garden and is one of the four most famous gardens in China. Although the garden was built during the Ming Dynasty, ownership of the garden was transferred during the Qing Dynasty. As such, the garden possesses a typical Qing style and is known for its calligraphy masterpieces. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lingering Garden additionally stores two UNESCO Intangible World Heritage Arts: Pingtan (评弹) and Guqin (古琴) music.

Penjing tree garden at the Humble Administrator’s Garden.

After a day of exploring Suzhou, we headed back on the bullet train and were back at the HNC by 7pm, just in time for dinner. As easy as it is to take a train from New Jersey to New York City, China’s bullet-train offers the same convenience for students at the HNC to go exploring. For those students interested in learning more about Chinese culture and historical sites while at the HNC, Suzhou is only one of the many beautiful cities one can visit. Wuxi, Hangzhou, Yangzhou, and Shanghai are also less than 2 hours away by bullet train. If you find yourself with free time at the Center, make the decision to take a day trip. You won’t regret it.

Have fun exploring!

Written by Alexandra Hansen, Certificate '18 and Emily Rivera, Certificate '18