Shantang Street is located in the northwest of Suzhou, linked with Changmen in the east where aristocracies pursued pleasures, Huqiu in the west, “the No.1 place of interest in the Wuzhong District”. It was built by digging the river and constructing dams in 825 A.D. when Bai Juyi, one of the most famous poets in Tang Dynasty, took the post of Suzhou Cishi (feudal prefectural governor). Owing to its distinguished geographic location and convenient water and land transportation, Shantang Street was one of the streets which trade and culture were most highly developed in Ming and Qing dynasties, regarded as “the No.1 Ancient Street in China”. The renovated Shantang Street becomes the place which shows the essence of natural views and human landscapes of Suzhou, which is rated as “the miniature of old Suzhou and the window of Wu culture”. The Shantang Street parallels with the waterway. Along the street stand a good many stores and halls which have delicate and graceful styles and scatter properly. All of above present the street’s prosperity again. There is a folk song, singing “There is a paradise in heaven, but there are Suzhou and Hangzhou on the earth. Hangzhou has the West Lake while Suzhou has Shantang. Both are good places with boundless sceneries”, which is the vivid image of Shantang.
The scientific planning is an important foundation for building the excellent project. Shantang Historic Cultural Protection Zone is the historic street listed in the master plan of Suzhou. It is linked with Shantang Bridge on the east and the West Hill Temple of Huqiu on the west, with the overall length of 3,600 meters and the planed area of 136.75 hectares. It is divided into six functional zones from east to west, including the flourishing zone, the marketplace zone, the historic-charm zone, the marvelously cultural zone, the ancient-celebrity and ancient-site zone and the landscape and famous-scenery zone in succession. According to the principles of “Protect the original style, Renovate the same as before, Prolong lifetime and Renew properly” and “Protection by classification”, based on the full and accurate investigations, the protective planning of Shantang Historic Cultural Protection Zone deserves a detailed introduction:
|The Night View of Suzhou Shantang Ancient Street Scenic Area
The Seven-mile-long Shantang is the remarkable article through ages, one end linked with Changmen where aristocrats pursued pleasures, the other with the No.1 place of interest, Huqiu. It was built by digging the river and constructing the dams in 825 A.D. when Bai Juyi took the post of Suzhou Cishi (feudal prefectural governor). Owing to its distinguished geographic location and convenient land and water transportation, it used to be one of the busiest streets in Ming and Qing Dynasties. There is a folk song, singing “There is a paradise in heaven, but there are Suzhou and Hangzhou on the earth. Hangzhou is famous for the West Lake while Suzhou is well known for Shantang. Both are good places with boundless sceneries”, which is the vivid image of Shantang. However, in the modern times, owing to various factors, Shantang declined gradually. The ancient houses were destroyed terribly; the infrastructure fell behind seriously. It lost its former styles and charms. Some first-aid measures were taken later, but had little effects. Therefore, the masses and the society screamed for implementing the Shantang protective renovation project as soon as possible.
In the 21st century, the Shantang Historic Cultural Protection Zone was designed and protected. On June18th, 2001, Suzhou Municipal Government held the commencement meeting of the protective renovation project of the Shantang Historic Cultural Protection Zone in the ancient Yuhan Hall, which marked the Shantang protective renovation project formally began. The local government paid great attention to and directly led the Shantang protective renovation project which received strong supports and active participation from all unites. In order to ensure that the project should be carried out smoothly, the leading group was founded and the Mayor was appointed as its leader and the deputy Mayor as the executive sub-leader. The municipal government signed the warranties with all corresponding units, which established the important foundation on which good beginning situations were formed, where all units perform their own duties and cooperate with each other perfectly under the unified leading with responsibilities well-defined.
The Seven-mile-long dam was built along the Seven-mile-long River. The values of Shantang historic street lie in its historic culture and traditional features. According to the well-defined overall requirement of “Combine protective, renovation with development of high-quality tourist products”, Shantang sets out to build a brand-new land-and-water golden tourist route by virtue of its own “cultural deposits”.
Give new cultural meanings to sights. “The commercial chamber of Suzhou” in the Tingzhou Guild Hall, and “Wan Qiu Yi” in the Jiangnan Garment Hall and Playing Sheng (a reed pipe wind instrument in China) on the ancient stage, have attracted innumerable tourists to Shantang. Yuhan Tang with the area of over 60,000 square meters, the former home of Wu Yipeng, an officer of Ming Dynasty, equal to the Minister of Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security at present, contrasts with Shantang. “Virtual Reality” presenting local customers and conditions has made the record of East China. Li Zhengdao, the famous scientist, wrote words of appreciation gladly, “The cultural relic converts new meanings; Yuhan Hall is gifted with the quality of jade.” At present, the number of renovated sight spots has exceeded 10. Supposing the Seven-mile-long Shantang is compared to an ancient melodious music composition, of course, these sight spots are its cultural notes.
According to the overall objective proposed by local government, the specific requirements to protect the historic streets and the work thinking of “Boom tourism, Subdivide cultures”, the node construction of Shantang Historic Cultural Street and cultural exploration and diffusion are proceeding orderly.
After Pufo Temple completed, five new node projects such as Yifeng Park, etc. will kick off. Based on the well-done adjustment of the medium-phased plan, the project, according to the principle of “suppress the second industry and develop the third industry”, will kick off. Meanwhile, there is a lot we can do on the famous stores, well-known houses, famous bridges, famous hills and famous rivers as well as exploring the historic cultural deposits.
Continuously improve the supporting facilities. Referring to the standards of AAAA-level tourist spots, the supporting facilities will be improved so as to satisfy the demands on visiting historic sites, exploration, recreation, and tourism of people from all walks of life. Continuously strengthen the planning of cultural activities. Various cultural activities are schemed on the basis of exploring the connotations of Shantang historic culture, organize and perform series of commemorative activities for celebrating the centenary of “Nanshe” and at the same time attract cultural celebrities to collect folk customers and conditions to write, sing, and draw Shantang in order to build Shantang brand by using cultural activities. Continuously stress the development of the tourist products. The images of “seven leopard cats” are rebuilt. The legend says that Liu Bowen sent to Suzhou by Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of Ming Dynasty, found that the shape of the Shantang River was like a lying tiger and then constructed statues of seven leopard cats respectively to trap it so as to consolidate the rule of Ming Dynasty. At present, “Seven leopard cats” have become the mascots of the Shantang Street. “Li”, the first word of the Chinese name of Leopard cat, has the same pronunciation with “利” which means success, “丽” which means beauty, “理” which means truth, “礼” which means ethics. Therefore, Shantang mascots are expected to be developed into a series of tourist products in the future.
Inherit the traditional technique culture. The apprentices of Master Ren Huixian, the inventor of “False-actual mixed-needle Stitch”, are engaged in embroidering in the workshop which windows are faced with the river. The front part of the workshop towards the street is the store, and the back is where apprentices work. Zhong Jinde, a master craftsman, is engraving a red sandal wood skillfully which presents delicate and elegant grains. Wufang Abstinence Hall has produced fine foods for one hundred year in Shantang. The traditional craft cultures including fans of Suzhou, stone pots, jade carvings and rubbings from tablets and the mentioned above can be shown and developed fully.
Emphasize the folk culture. A supply of restaurants in Suzhou such as Yuhan Hall, Songhe Building and Gangzhou Guild Hall, make Shantang Street full of strong local features. The art centers such as Wumen Qinhang convey the genuine local ancient charms and customers. Meanwhile, the folk cultural activities, such as the folk cultural art festivals, presenting new-year pictures, welcoming the God of Wealth, the Lantern Festival, the Hundred-flower Festival, and the assembly where human being may have a chance to meet supernatural beings for blessings all over the year, which used to be on the verge of loss are explored and recovered successfully.
Develop the screen culture. The film, Rouge, and the TV series of Hong Kong, Wind and Stars are moving while cloud stays, were shot in Shantang. The TV series, Fighting in Ancient Shantang, regarded Shantang as its main shoot location. The Shantang Histric Street really becomes “the miniature of the ancient Suzhou, the window of Wu culture and the street in the paradise.”
Traveling in Shantang seems to step into the long history of Suzhou and the splendid culture of Suzhou. Shantang, a history literature which had been written for over ten centuries by innumerable ancestors, will be added new chapters by our generations at the present day.
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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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