The Temple of Heaven was built in 1420 A.D. during the Ming Dynasty to offer sacrifice to Heaven.
In the center of the Temple of Heaven are the Echo Wall and the Imperial Vault of Heaven. The Echo Wall is named for its acoustical properties – a whisper spoken at one end can be heard clearly from the other.
The walkway is flanked by centuries-old cypress trees. The grounds are now used as a park and you can see people in large numbers dancing, playing and enjoying themselves.
Two of the older generation- one dozing and one posing for us at the temple of heaven.
Suzhou is a well known historical and cultural city full of timeless and poetic charm, famous for its elegant classical Chinese gardens, bridges, canals, beautiful lakes, undulating hills and numerous picturesque spots. Over the years, it has been called by many names, ‘Venice of the East’, ‘City of Garden’, ‘City of Bridges’, ‘A paradise on Earth’, being some of them.
It took us a two hour bus ride from Shanghai to reach Suzhou. We were a group of 22 people and had a fun and lighthearted time playing Antakshari, Give us a Clue, What?s the Good Word, Chinese-whispers etc during the long two hour ride.
Suzhou has also been an important center for China’s silk industry since the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and still holds that prominent position today.
The Grand Canal, the oldest and largest man-made artificial canal is located here.
We visited a classical Chinese garden, the Master-of-Nets Garden, the Grand Canal, and the Bridges of Tongli and the famed Suzhou Silk Factory, which are briefly described below :-
The Master-of-Nets Garden:
The Garden of the Master of the Nets is the smallest of Suzhou gardens, yet it is the most impressive because of its use of space which creates the illusion of an area that is much greater than its actual size. This classic Chinese garden embodies a mood of tranquility and harmony was designed during the Song Dynasty.
The main garden has a large central pond (440 square meters) surrounded by a number of verandahs and walkways. In the pond is a small hexagonal pavilion and a small stone bridge.
The Master of the Nets Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the many public gardens in Suzhou that originally were the gardens of private residences.
The Grand Canal
The Grand Canal in China is the oldest and longest man-made canal in the world. It links up the five large rivers of Haihe, Huanghe (the Yellow River), Huaihe, Changjiang (the Yangtze) and Qiantangjiang.
The canal is 1,795 km (1,114 miles) long with 24 locks and some 60 bridges.
The oldest parts of the canal date back to the 5th century.
The Bridges of Tongli
There are forty-nine stone bridges in Tongli. The most notable are the Tongli Bridges of Peace and Tranquility (Taiping) Bridge, Luck (Jili) Bridge and Lasting Celebration (long life) Bridge.
It is said that if you walk across these three bridges you will have luck, peace and long life. I walked all three, so lets see what the future holds for me.
The Peace and Tranquility Bridge was built in 1747 during the Qing dynasty.
Suzhou Silk Painting
Suzhou Silk Factory
Xi’an – The Terracotta Warriors
The main attraction in Xi?an are the Terracotta Warriors, which are 2000 year old archaeological remnants of 8099 life size figures of warriors and horses, located near the Mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor, Qin Shi Huang. The figures were accidentally discovered by farmers in 1974 when digging a well, and have now received worldwide attention and interest.
To guard him in his afterlife, the emperor ordered making of life size clay soldiers to be buried in battle formation along with his body.
Yuyuan Garden (Shanghai)
Yuyuan is a 400 year old classical Chinese garden in the old town of Shanghai.
Jade Buddha Temple (Shanghai)
Jade Buddha Temple is the custodian of two jade Buddha statues which had been brought from Burma by a monk named Huigen during ancient times. Inspite of the temple being plundered during the revolution, the statues were saved. Both the Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha are carved with whole white jade and are rare cultural relics and porcelain artworks.
The Jade Buddha Temple is a good place to go whether you are a Buddhist or not. The smell of incense, the ambiance of the temple, the worshippers on their knees venerating the statues, the barefooted monks looking so tranquil and serene, adds a peaceful and transcendent atmosphere and calms you down.
To be continued, stay tuned…!
Author: Judith Serrao- UAE