Add:No. 1 Dongda Street, Suzhou
Panmen Scenic Area is featured in almost every guidebook written about Suzhou. It is worth noting, though, that recent reconstruction has lessened some of the area’s original charm. All the same, a stroll past the historic relics and through the scenic landscapes is a pleasant way to pass a few hours.
The highlight of the area is of course Panmen Gate, first built during the Wu Kingdom in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). It is the only well preserved water-and-land gate remaining in the world today. Though it has been rebuilt several times, the gate has never moved even one inch from its original site. The current structure was built in 1351. Panmen Gate, Ruiguang Pagoda and Wumen Bridge are often referred to as Suzhou’s “three fine sceneries.”
The Ruiguang Pagoda stands at the entrance of the scenic area. It was originally built by Sun Quan of the Wu Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280 AD) as a show of the respect to his mother. The pagoda sustained heavy damage throughout the various wars that were fought in the region over the next thousand years, leaving only the brick shell of the structure standing. In 1978, a small Buddhist shrine and several other Buddhist relics were found on the pagoda’s third floor.
Wumen Bridge, straddling the moat that surrounds Old Suzhou, is a typical example of an ancient Chinese bridge. Wumen Qiao is the perfect spot from which to imagine the glory days of Old Suzhou. The 11-meter-high bridge was first built in 1084. After facing destruction several times, it was rebuilt during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) in its present form. Its length spans 66.3 meters, and 50 steps climb up on each side of the bridge.
Other places of interest in the Panmen Scenic Area include Wu Zixu’s Temple, the Hall of Sirui, the Double Pavilion Corridor Bridge, and the Century Bell of Tang.