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Shantang Jie (Shantang Street)

Suzhou, China

With an emphasis on the Wu culture, Shantang is a prosperous street in Suzhou, with a history spanning an amazing 11 centuries. It was built in the reign of the Tang empire as part of a project to construct a dam. The road is paved on two sides and has water flowing through, with multiple bridges built to facilitate people crossing to either side and historic buildings that immortalize the old days of Suzhou. Its beauty has become part of folk culture with a song referring it as heaven on earth.

Subway line 2 will take you right to the street as will many buses going to Shantang Street station. There is no charge or opening time for entering the street. However, if you want to get a closer look at the ancient sites you can get a combo ticket of RMB45 which allows entry to 7 places. The timings for these are from 08:30 to 17:00 and kids under 3.9 feet go free while those measuring between 3.9 to 4.9 feet get half off their ticket. Two options for boats are available, the common motorboat sells tickets at RMB25/person and goes a bout for 45 minutes while a manual boat can be rented at RMB100 and accommodates 8 people. Close to Tiger Hill and Lingering Gardens, it is possible to do the former two in the first half of the day and then head to Shantang in the evening for a stroll along the street, grabbing traditional food and snacks and checking out the places of interest for a wonderful day.

Activities of choice on this site are mainly the gondola rides along the canal and capturing the otherworldly charm of this ancient thoroughfare. The bridges are very scenic, and the red lanterns make it very oriental. A traveler’s ideal photo op!

To keep the public safe and this commercial hub running smoothly, a fire fighting building was setup way back in 1925. It’s called the Antai Fire Fighting Association and is now a museum where one can look through the equipment and methods used in that time to combat fire incidents.

At almost 500 years old, the Yuhan Hall is the one of the finest maintained Ming era constructions and one with the most variety of styles incorporated into a single building.

Quanzhou Commercial Guild Hall and Shaoxing Commercial Guild Hall are fascinating pieces of history because these were places were traders from all over China could come and stay and make contacts with the local merchants, thereby increasing trade within the country. These museums are now open for visitors to have a look around.

Although the street has many bridges that are similar in style, the Tonggui Bridge is the most famed. It has great views, so selfies are recommended here. You may even run into artists trying to capture the scene on their easels or cameras.

Ancient Theatrical Stage, Jiangnan Tailoring Museum and Shantang Pavilion are other sites that can be explored with the combo ticket.

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