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Mudu Water Town


Mudu(木渎), a water town with a history over 2,500 years, can be literally translated to be a river surrounded by woods. Mudu ancient town has a great history and culture, located in the lower reaches of Yangtze River. Mudu town in Suzhou is full of picture-perfect landscapes, highlighted with the crisscrossing water lanes and the old arch bridges and houses. With a large number of cultural heritage sites of Ming and Qing Dynasties, a famous painting named Gusu Fanhua Tu (姑苏繁华图, the Painting of Prosperous Suzhou), and over a half of it depicts the beauty of Mudu. Also, it is famous as the stone-carving center, calligraphy center and garden center, and boasts the No.1 Town of Suzhou and the most beautiful site of Jiangnan.

The View of Yan Family Private Garden   The Pagoda in Temple of Lingyan Hill

Mudu ancient town ranks the top of thirteen scenic spots of Taihu Lake Scenic Area, and the only ancient garden town of China. There are more than 30 private gardens built in Ming and Qing Dynasties. The highlights of them represented by Yan Family Private Garden (严家花园, this is the most famous one in Mudu, and the former residence of Yan Jiagan, a famous politician of Taiwan), Hongyin Shanfang (虹饮山房, Rainbow-Drinking Mountain Villa, which used to be the temporary imperial palace of Emperor Qianlong), Gusong Garden(古松园, Garden of Ancient Pine), Lingyan Shanguan (灵岩山馆, The Sacred Rock Mountain Villa), Bangyan Fudi(榜眼府第, The Mansion of Bangyan, who was the second place winner of ancient national imperial examination) and Panyin Caotang (盘隐草堂, Panyin Humble House). Mudu, surrounded by several mountains like Tianping Hill, Lingyan Hill, Lion Hill and Qizi Hill, has a gorgeous natural landscape, thus it is also widely known as a basin of treasure collection.

Mudu shares a history as long as that of Suzhou. It is said that, during the late period of Spring and Autumn, Yue State failed in war against Wu State. For peacemaking, King of Yue State presented a beauty named Xi Shi to King of Wu State. Fuchai, the king of Wu Kingdom, for pleasing Beauty Xishi, built Guanwa Palace(馆娃宫, China’s first hilltop imperial garden in history) on top of Lingyanshan Mountain. And he once established the Gusu-Highland, which spent three years for wood collection and five years for completion(三年聚材,五年乃成). The wood continually came that they blocked the rivers and streams. So this place named Mudu meaning the woods block the rivers or streams).

Yan Family Private Garden, located on the north of Wangjia Bridge in Shantang Street, was originally the residence of Shen Deqian (沈德潜), a great soul of Confucianism in the reign of Emperor Qianlong. In 1828, it was sold to Qian Duanxi (钱端溪), and he redesigned the garden and renamed it Duan Garden. In 1902, Yan Guoxin (严国馨), the richest man of Mudu, resurfaced it, and renamed it Xianyuan Garden. Because the owner’s surname was Yan, it is called Yan Family Private Garden. With a history over 200 years, and three generations’ efforts, it is full of culture and history, and regarded as the classic representative of private gardens in Jiangnan.

Hongyin Shanfang (虹饮山房, Rainbow-Drinking Mountain Villa) is located on the east side of Yan Family Private Garden. It was a famous garden at the suburb of Suzhou, built in the reign of Emperor Qianlong of Qing Dynasty. It is opposite to the Fragrance Stream and backs on Lingyan Hill. Every time, Emperor Qianlong always stayed in Hongyin Shanfang when visiting Jiangnan. He visited garden, enjoyed the opera, tasted the tea, and created the poems, and till the dark, he left it and returned to Lingyan Hill Temporary Palace along the Shantang Imperial Way.

Ancient Pine Garden (古松园) was initially built by Cai Shaoyu(蔡少渔) , a local rich businessman of late Qing Dynasty, who did business of selling foreign goods in Shanghai. In Mudu, Cai Shaoyu,Yan Guoxin(严国馨), Zheng Lingjiu(郑龄九) and Xu Fenglou(徐凤楼), four together were known as Four Richest Men of Mudu. The basic architectural layout of the garden is the front mansion and the rear garden, and belongs to a typical garden of Qing Dynasty. Due to a Podocarpus macrophyllus standing in garden, and it was planted in Ming Dynasty, and one kind of pine trees, so it is named Ancient Pine Garden.

Lingyan Hill Scenic Area (灵岩山风景区) is located at the foot of Lingyan Hill. In this scenic area, visitors can see Gusutai of Wu King, Lingyanshan Hall of Bi Ruan who was one of the first-place winners in Imperial Examination of Qing Dynasty and Zhang Yongfu Memorial Hall( Mr.Zhang was the famous poet of Qing Dynasty) and so on. The towers, pavilions and halls as well as the long corridors together with the streams under the elaborative design become the essential parts of this picturesque area. Anciently it used to be the best tourist destination. Along the mountainous way, visitors can see Guanwa Palace, Xishi Cave, Qin Dais and other historic relics, and then visit Lingyanshan Temple which is also famous in Jiangnan area. In Buddhism of China, Lingyan Hill is a holy center, and Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong’s several visits to south China, and stayed overnight in temporary palace of Lingyan Hill.

Tianping Hill (天平山) located in the northwest of Mudu town, with a height of 201 meters. Its named is originated form the flat hilltop. Due to the great-grandfather of Fan Zhongyan(范仲淹) buried here, it is called Fanfen Hill as well. Nationwide known as a great tourist destination to view the autumnal red leaves of maple trees, as famous as the Qixia Mountain of Nanjing, Yuelu Mountain of Changsha and Fragrance Hill of Beijing. In literature, it is recorded as a considerably attractive scene of Tianping Guanfeng (天平观枫, View the red leaves of maple trees of Tianping Hill), additionally, it is also famous for its great hill springs and the weird rocks.

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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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