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Experience Beautiful Tongli Further in Shanghai Tours

Posted Oct 24 2013 8:13am

Surrounded by five lakes and crisscrossed by China tours a skein of canals, the Song Dynasty town of Tongli is more built up and commercialized than Nanxun, but it's still a pleasant enough water village, with several impressive residences and gardens, and China's first sex museum. It's not as if this picturesque town a half-hour east of Suzhou needs any more publicity, having been a magnet for television and film crews since 1983. Try to visit on a weekday when you won't be overrun by the masses, though you just may find yourself in the midst of a film set.

Buffeted in the south by new, ugly concrete buildings, Tongli's picturesque old town, located north of the Shangyuan Canal (Shangyuan Gang), is actually made up of seven islets connected to each other by more than 40 arched stone bridges and fed by a Yangtze River cruises network of some 15 canals. The town dates to the Song Dynasty (960-1279), though many of its surviving mansions are of later Ming and Qing origin.

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As recently as 2 years ago, residents were still blithely going about their lives along the canals (it was not uncommon to see children bathing and women washing clothes in the streams), but all that messy living has now been largely cleaned up for tourists. The most common sight in the canals these days is a flotilla of tourist gondolas (and, of course, the inevitable trash that Shanghai travel still results from hordes of visitors). You, too, can soak up the watery atmosphere by renting a gondola (¥70 per boat for 30 min.) from various piers scattered along the canals.

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