The Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce visited China last fall. Here is the third installment in this series about the trip.
After checking into our hotel in Suzhou, a good night’s rest, and breakfast, we started our day at Lingering Garden. Occupying an area of a little less than six acres, it is one of the four most famous gardens in China, and was listed as a UESCO site in 1997.
With a history of more than 400 years, the Lingering Garden was first built in 1593 during the Ming Dynasty, and carved masterpieces were added to the building corridors during the Qing Dynasty along with unusually-shaped stones added in the garden. Almost demolished in the 1930s, the garden was repaired and reopened to the public in 1954, sponsored by the government and then opened to the public.
Suzhou is known for its silk production, and our next stop was the Suzhou Silk Factory. We saw a display of the life-cycle of the silk worm and demonstrations of how the silk is harvested from the cocoons and eventually woven into fabric. One cocoon can produce about two km of silk strand, and then several of these strands are twined together to make a single thread.
We also visited the workshop, and saw silk products being produced, and visited the factory’s showroom. We then traveled to the Embroidery Institute and learned the history of silk embroidery. Beautiful and intricate works of art were being created, and both single and double-sided pieces were on display. The detail was extraordinary, and many pieces were available for sale in all price ranges, including a section that featured art from students of the craft.
Our lunch was next door, and afterwards the group traveled to the Grand Canal for a boat tour. We boarded old vintage boats for a cruise up and back in the canal. The Grand Canal is the oldest and longest canal in the world, flowing South from Beijing to Hangzhou. Construction started over 2,500 years ago, travels a distance of 1,794 kilometers, and is regarded as one of the two greatest ancient projects in China, together with the Great Wall.
The tour showed a lot of life in China, being able to see homes and businesses from the canal. We even saw folks washing clothes in the canal. From the canal, we traveled to Tiger Hill, a popular tourist destination known for its natural beauty and historical sites. The hill is so named because of a legend of a white tiger appearing on the hill to guard it following the burial of Wu King Helu.
At the top of Tiger Hill is a seven-story pagoda built in the year 960, that leans as much as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but actually predates and is taller. There were lots of other spots to visit at Tiger Hill, including Thousand People Rock, the Sword Testing Rock, and Sword Pond, where 3,000 swords from the collection of Wu King Helu are supposedly buried.
After our visit to Tiger Hill, we departed by bus to Hangzhou. After a good night’s rest and another buffet breakfast, we started our day at the Linqyin Temple. One of the most significant and beautiful Buddhist monasteries in China, the temple entrance is lined with hundreds of rock grottoes that contain detailed rock carvings of the big-bellied “Laughing Buddha.” An actual monastery, we quietly observed a service of the monks chanting and were able to interact with the monks.
The Hall of the Great Hero houses a 64-foot tall camphor wood-carved Buddha, covered with gold leaf. Another interesting building, the Hall of the Five Hundred, containing 500 arhats (a Buddhist that has achieve Nirvana) as slightly larger-than-life bronze statues and seated on unique ornate seat. We then traveled to the Longjing Green Tea Plantation, or Dragon Well Tea. With 800 acres in cultivation, it is easy to see where the phrase “all the tea in China” came from!
Learning about different teas, how they are harvested, dried and packed by hand was very interesting, and we got to sample tea while learning the correct way to brew tea and the health benefits tea provides. After lunch, we went to Lakeside Park along West Lake and then a relaxing boat ride on West Lake. Highlights include Broken Bridge and a gold roof boat that looks like a pagoda used for special visitors. We departed the lake for our last stop and focus of our next article — Shanghai.
Bobby Todd is director of the Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce.