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Suzhou Tiger Hill Introduction


suzhou tiger hill
Suzhou Tiger Hill

Tiger Hill to Suzhou is a landmark of history and culture, for it witnesses the past of Suzhou. The age of Tiger Hill is the same as the history of Suzhou. Coming to Suzhou, Tiger Hill is the must-see site, though many people may say that the must-see destinations of Suzhou are the classical gardens, which are the real representative of Suzhou and also have been written into the List of World Heritage Sites in China. This is the widely-accepted but partially unadvisable idea, because Tiger Hill witnesses the construction, destruction and reconstruction of Suzhou Classical Gardens in the past thousands of years. Tiger Hill shares the same origin with Suzhou rather than classical gardens.

He Lv(阖闾, ?- BC496), the King of Wu State in Spring and Autumn Period, built the capital around Tiger Hill and also was buried in Tiger Hill. The great poet of Tang Dynasty, Bai Juyi(白居易, 772 - 846) during his governance in Suzhou, largely constructed and extended the whole site, also built up Qili Causeway(七里堤), and made the whole Tiger Hill Scenic Area more beautiful. Currently, Tiger Hill Scenic Area has more than 100 hectares of area and becomes one of the most popular tourist destinations in Suzhou. Additionally, Tiger Hill is also an important site of folk fairs and gatherings. In terms of the local history of Suzhou: Three Fairs and Three Festivals. The authority of Tiger Hill Scenic Area holds the art and flower festivals or fairs in Suzhou. In autumn, diversity of temple fairs featuring the folk customs held in Tiger Hill was extensively loved by tourists. In 2002, Tiger Hill was approved to be the Four-A Scenic Area of China. The famous attractions of Suzhou Tiger Hill Scenic Area include: Pagoda of Yunyan Temple(云岩寺塔), Sword Lake of Tiger Hill(剑池), Yongcui Shanzhuang(拥翠山庄), Lu Yu Well(陆羽井),Lengxiang Pavilion(冷香阁, Frozen Fragrance Pavilion) and other detailed scenes.

The Featured Architecture in Tiger Hill Scenic Area

suzhou tiger hill
The Pagoda of Yunyan Temple

The historic architecture is the vital part of Tiger Hill Cultural Heritage, and the architecture is also comprised of diversities of architectural styles and the history of the architecture is also quite long. The design of these buildings is the typical show of characteristics of Southern China’s Classical Gardens, which is highlighted with the theory of showing indefiniteness in limited space and the oneness of surrounding and the architectural styles. The styles of the architecture is also various and roughly consist of pagodas, halls, bridges, pavilions, towers, tombs and other styles. The time duration is also quite long, approximately ranging from Five Dynasties to modern times, and it mainly exhibits the architectural styles of Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties as well as the Republic of China. In 1961, the pagoda and other architecture of Yunyan Temple(云岩寺) was listed in Key Cultural and Historic Site under the National Protection. The symbolic building of Tiger Hill is the Huqiu Pagoda, also called Pagoda of Yunyan Temple, which is partially destroyed, and currently it is 48 meters high and belongs to the eight-angle and seven-storey brick-made pagoda. Huqiu Pagoda at present is the only pagoda built in Five-Dynasty Period with several stories in Jiangnan Region(江南, Southeast China, or The Yangtze River Delta Region), besides the whole pagoda approximately leans itself 2.34 meters to north, and it is also famous as the Oriental Leaning Tower, and these leaning pagoda has stood for more than 1, 000 years.

Ershan Gate(二山门,The Second Gate of Temple) belonging to the architecture of Yuan Dynasty, but the whole style of building is strongly characterized of the architectural style of Song Dynasty, and it is also called Broken Beam Hall, for the beam of the whole architecture is made of two sections of round logs. The gate, roof decoration and dougong are still featuring the architectural style of Yuan Dynasty though reconstructed for many times after Yuan Dynasty. Shuangjing Bridge(Double Wells Bridge, 双井桥), located on the Sword Lake(剑池), was built in South Song Dynasty, and it belongs to the solo-hole arch bridge and is also the famous historic scene of Tiger Hill.

Taying Bridge(塔影桥, Pagoda-Shadow Bridge) is on the southeast foot of hill and crosses the Huanshan River(环山河, Round-Hill River). This bridge was originally built in the reign of Emperor Jiaqing of Qing Dyansty, and also the solo-hole bridge. It is made of the bluestones. In accordance to the historical records, the access to the mausoleum of King Helv of Wu State was discovered for many times. During the serious drought of Suzhou in the reign of Emperor Zhengde in Ming Dynasty, some people like Wang Ao(王鏊) and Tang Bohu(唐伯虎) discovered a triangle-shaped cave at the bottom of The Sword Lake. In 1994 and 1995, the so-called access to the mausoleum was discovered as well during the dredging of The Sword Lake. On the hill, the Yongcui Shanzhuang(拥翠山庄, Yongcui Humble Compound) built in reign of Emperor Guangxu in Qing Dynasty features a style of platform garden. The Wanjing Shanzhuang(万景山庄, Wanjing Humble Compound) on the east side of hill is the classical representative of the oneness of modern garden and bonsai art.

The History of Tiger Hill

suzhou tiger hill
Winter Scene of Suzhou Tiger Hill

Originally called Haiyong Hill(海涌山), Huqiu Hill or Tiger Hill has a historical story. According to the Record of The Grand Historian, During the Spring and Autumn Period, King He Lv of Wu State was wounded in the Battle of Qili Battle(楔李之战), and died later. After his death, he ordered his son, King Fuchai of Wu State, to bury him in Huqiu. For building the mausoleum, King Fuchai deployed 100, 000 people and also used the elephants for transportation. The coffin of King He Lv was covered with three layers bronze-made containers, and the containers were full of the azoth. The accompanied treasures included the gold-made goose and duck, and the valuable swords named Yuchang(鱼肠, a famous sword that King He Lv lent a warrior or assassinator named Zhuan Chu, 专诸, and secretly ordered him to murder Liao, 僚,the former King of Wu State ) and Bainzhu(扁诸). It was said that there was a white tiger squatting on the hill after King He Lv passed away. For this, the Haiyong Hill was changed to be Tiger Hill. The history of Tiger Hill could be dated back to 2500 years ago. Also, after the perdition of Wu State, King Gou Jian of Yue State, Emperor Shihuang of Qin Dynasty and King Sun Quan of Wu State in Three Kingdoms Period explored the mausoleum for swords, but all were in vain.

Since Six Dynasties period, Tiger Hill has become the famous tourist destination and Buddhist hill. In East Jin Period, Wang Xun(王珣) and his young brother named Wang Min(王珉) built the villa in hill respectively. In 327, they presented the villas to Huqiu Temple, and changed to be called The East Temple and West Temple. The Buddhist master called Daosheng(道生) coming from northern China in Song Period of North-South Division period interpreted the sutra of Buddhism over here, and left many famous relics. During the Six Dynasties Period, Tiger Hill had pagoda, and the destroyed pagoda was the oldest one in China.

In Tang Dynasty, to avoid mentioning the name of Li Hu(李虎), the grandfather of Li Yuan(李渊) who was the founder of Tang Dynasty, Tiger Hill, or Hu Qiu, was changed to be Wu Qiu(武丘),and the temple also changed to be Wuqiubaoen Temple(武丘报恩寺) was also comprised of east temple and west temple. In 825, Bai Juyi acted as the governor of Suzhou, and he loved the beauty of Suzhou, especially the Tiger Hill. He made a large reconstruction to Tiger Hill, and he also made the ways to Tiger Hill more convenient, and the waterway and landway were all perfectly wonderful. And the surroundings were also beautified and elaborately designed. And Bai Juyi also wrote a classical poem to memorize this thing. For commemorating the contribution of Bai Juyi, the descendants called the way Causeway of Lord Bai(白公堤), which at present is called Shantang Street(山塘街), and the river is called Shantang River. The street and river are both 7 miles long, and they together are called Seven-Mile Shantang(七里山塘). Since then, Shantang became the only connection between Lvmen and Tiger Hill, and also the only way from downtown Suzhou to Tiger Hill.

suzhou tiger hill
Pagoda of Suzhou Tiger Hill

During the reign of Emperor Wuzong in Tang Dynasty, for raising Taoism and suppressing Buddhism, a large movement for eliminating Buddhism was launched. In 845, the property of the temple was confiscated, and the statues of Buddha were destroyed, and the monks and nuns were forced to be secularized. The east and west temples were all thoroughly destroyed. But later, the resuming of the Buddhism made the Huqiushan Temple be reconstructed, and two parts were unified. Besides, the temple was moved to the top of hill from the foot. And the whole architectural layout gradually formed the feature at present. At the foot of the hill, there are also the West-Hill Temple and East-Hill Temple in memory of Wang Xun and Wang Min.

In Song Dynasty, the governor of Suzhou called Wei Yang(魏庠) reported the superior authority to change the name of Huqiushan Temple to Yunyan Temple. From then on, the Tiger Hill became the holy land of Buddhism and the hot destination of tourism. In 1131, roughly in the early period of Southern Song Dynasty, the Buddhist master named Shao Long(绍隆) interpreted the sutras of Buddhism in Tiger Hill, and Tiger Hill was predominantly influential in China, and formed a zen school of Buddhism named Huqiu School. In southeast China at the time, there are a quite famous title of Buddhism called Five Hills and Ten Temples(五林十刹), and Huqiu Hill, or Tiger Hill, was one of them. In 1341, the temple was reconstructed, and the Duanliang Hall as the extended building was called The Second Gate of Temple. In Ming Dynasty, The buildings on Tiger Hill were rebuilt for many times. A local governor of Suzhou named Kuang Zhong(况钟) once donated a great deal to rebuild the temple, and the local residents all donated a lot. Moreover, at the time, the area of Tiger Hill was also the important business zone and quite prosperous.

In Qing Dynasty, Emperor Kangxi visited Tiger Hill for six times, and Emperor Qianlong three times. The peak time of Tiger Hill reappeared, and many extended building complexes appeared in 1707, Emperor Kangxi inscribed the tablet for the temple, which was ”虎阜禅寺”(The Tiger Squatting in Temple). In 1860, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom selected Nanjing as its capital, a king named Liu Xiucheng(李秀成) attacked Suzhou when was still in the control of Qing Government, and the troops of Qing Dynasty fired down the Changmen area of Suzhou, and the fire spread to Tiger Hill. In 1863, Tiger Hill became the outpost and front of Suzhou Defence War between The Troops of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and Qing Government, and a lot of the ancient architecture was destroyed in the battles. In 1884, Hong Jun(洪钧, the first-place winter in the imperial examination nationwide)and Zheng Wenzhuo(郑文焯, a famous writer of ci) built Yongcui Shanzhuang.

In 1918, the celebrated characters of Suzhou named Jin Songcen(金松岑), Fei Zhongshen(费仲深) and Wang Dingcheng(王鼎丞) built Lengxiang Pavilion as well as planted a lot of plum trees surrounding the Lengxiang Pavilion, and this site gradually became the hot destination for appreciating the plum blossoms. In the next decades of years, many old sites like Sitou Gate, Stone Kwan-yin Hall, Lord Shen Memorial, Three-Spring Pavilion and Zhishuang Pavilion were rebuilt gradually. After the foundation of New China (The People’s Republic of China), the Administrative Office of Suzhou Gardens and Relics was established in 1953, and Tiger Hill was systematically and gradually managed and reconstructed. In 1955, the Fanghe Pavilion, Yongquan Pavilion and Sunwu Pavilion were all rebuilt, and the Round-Hill River was opened as well. In 1956, Haiyong Bridge, Baibuqu and Huayu Pavilion were all reconstructed. In 1959, the Tongyou Pavilion, Yulanshan House, Small Wudang, Round-Hill Road and Eighteen Zigzag were resurfaced. During the Cultural Revolution, a large number of relics and sites were seriously destroyed. Since 1980, Tiger Hill Scenic Area has been reconstructed and well preserved over again.

Elite Culture of Tiger Hill Scenic Area

Portrait of Tang Bohu
Portrait of Tang Bohu

Suzhou is the important site of Chinese elite culture, and in the past thousands of years, Tiger Hill has been interlinked closely to elites and their masterpieces of arts and literature. The famous characters include: Gu Kaizhi(顾恺之, the famous painter of Jin Dynasty), Gu Yewang(顾野王, the famous historian and ancient Chinese character interpretation expert in Six Dynasties Period), Yan Zhenqing(颜真卿, the honorable politician and greatest calligraphist in Tang Dynasty), Li Bai(李白, one of the greatest poets in ancient China), Bai Juyi(白居易, one of the greatest poets in ancient China), Wei Yingwu(韦应物, the famous poet of Tang Dynasty), Liu Yuxi(刘禹锡, the famous poet in late Tang Dynasty), Lu Guimeng(陆龟蒙, the famous poet of Tang Dynasty), Pi Rixiu(皮日休, the famous poet of Tang Dynasty), Su Shi(苏轼, a rarely-seen comprehensive master of Chinese art, literature and philosophy), Mi Fu(米芾, one of the most famous calligraphists in Song Dynasty), Shao Long(绍钟), Zhao Mengfu(赵孟頫, the greatest artists and the leading elites of literature and spirituality in Yuan Dynasty), Ni Zan(倪瓒, a famous painter), Wang Ao(王鏊), Shen Zhou(沈周, a famous painter of Ming Dyansty and teacher of Wen Zhengming), Wen Zhengming(文征明, the most famous calligraphist and painter of Ming Dynasty), Tang Bohu(唐伯虎, a famous painter of Ming Dynasty), Zhang Dai(张岱, a famous writer), Yuan Hongdao(袁宏道, a famous writer), Wu Weiye(吴伟业, a famous writer and poet), Zhu Yizun(朱彝尊, a famous scholar), Hong Jun(洪钧, a famous diplomat of late Qing Dynasty), Lu Runyang(陆润庠, a famous scholar and official), Panzhang Yuliang(潘张玉良, a famous female painter living in France) and Wang Xun and Wang Min mentioned above. These social and cultural elites presented Tiger Hill the indefinite spirituality and elegance as well as charm. And a lot of classical literary masterpieces like The Dream of Mansion(红楼梦, created by Cao Xueqin in Qing Dynasty), Rulin Waishi(儒林外史, created by Wu Jingzi in Qing Dynasty) and Sanyan Erpai(三言二拍, created by Feng Menglong and Ling Mengchu in Ming Dynasty). In lunar calendar, the March 3 is the Shangsi Festival(上巳节, an old festival in China for avoiding the evil and washing out the unlucky things), and the elites and scholars would gather in Tiger Hill to create the paintings and poems via imitating the historically famous Lanting Gathering(兰亭聚会). In 1924 and 1936, Zhang Daqian(张大千, the most famous Chinese painter and passed away in Taiwan after 1949), Zhang Shanzi(张善孖, a famous painter) and Huang Binhong(黄宾虹, a widely influential painter of Chinese painting from Huizhou, Anhui province) held the gatherings here and created a lot of classical masterpieces, and today, in Suzhou Library, these masterpieces of arts and literature are available.


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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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