Friday, September 14, 2012

Roar: Suzhou's Tiger Hill

No visit is complete without a trip
to the McDonald's in Old Town!
Last month, our family was so excited to welcome Jamie’s mother to Suzhou for 12 days.  We took her to some of our favorite spots: Old Town, the pearl market, Ancient Street, the No. 1 Silk Museum and the former French Concession in Shanghai.  

Temple in Old Town.
Mei Mei's: Where we had Jamie's aunt's silk pajamas made. 
One of the workers making Jamie's mother's pearl necklace.
So much to look at in the Pearl Market.
Waiting patiently (or not so patiently)
for our jewelry to be finished.
Standing in front of the live silk worms
at the No. 1 Silk Museum. 
Pulling the silk threads to make a silk duvet.

Tianzifang at night in Shanghai.

Jamie's mother's visit gave us the perfect excuse to make our first visit to Suzhou’s iconic Tiger Hill in the northwest part of the city.  The island area is a combination of a bamboo park, tomb, and temple, and is surrounded by canals.

Walking towards the entrance of Tiger Hill.

Though we went on a very hot day in August (but all days are hot in Suzhou in August!), I was pleasantly surprised about how much of the area was in the shade.  As we were walking up the many steps towards the temple, I was approached by a young woman who asked to  be our guide around the area. She suggested a price and I counter-offered, not really finding it necessary to have a guide.  She said no and I thanked her and she walked away, but then she came back with another offer and I restated the price I was comfortable with and she walked away.  The third time was the charm because she came back again and agreed to be our guide.  I can tell I’ve been here a while, this negotiating is becoming second nature (be that a warning to all car salesmen we deal with when we repatriate to the US!) and it helped that I couldn’t have cared less if she agreed or not, no emotions were tied to the deal!  As it turns out, I am very glad that she agreed to be our guide, we would have missed out on a lot of the history and details of Tiger Hill.

Tiger Hill is the burial place of He Lu, the King of Wu and founder of Suzhou.  Tiger Hill earned its name because the legend says his spirit was guarded by a white tiger that  appeared three days after his death and refused to leave.  The King was supposedly buried with 3,000 swords.  Our guide told us that the entrance to the tomb is actually underneath a moat and the water would have to be drained to enter the tomb.  She also said that upon the completion of the tomb all of the workers were given wine to celebrate, but that it had been purposely poisoned causing all the workers to die on the spot...just like with the Egyptian pyramids.  The spot where the workers perished is called Thousand People Rock.

Canals surround the Tiger Hill area. 

1,000 People Rock (the pillar) where
all of the workers died after completing the tomb.

Apparently if the water was drained,
we would see the entrance to the tomb.
Are there 3,000 swords down there? 
Looking out at the Suzhou skyline, our apartment
is to the left of the archway, which has
 been dubbed "Big Pants" by locals.

Looking up at the pagoda.

Above the tomb is the 1,000-year-old temple.  I asked if the temple had been built there because of the tomb and our guide said that it was coincidence that both were built on that spot.  The pagoda (temple) is leaning more than seven feet and sometimes is called the Second Leaning Tower, the first being  in Italy.  The exterior of the pagoda had been covered in wood, but the tower had caught on fire a few times, most recently during the government’s changes in the 1960’s and ‘70’s.

Running down the tree-lined path.
After walking up to the temple, we enjoyed seeing the bamboo on the way down to the canal.  We love canal rides, so after a quick ice cream break, we ended our day being taken by a man-powered boat around the canals circling Tiger Hill.

Any time is a good time for ice cream.

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