The ancient name of Suzhou is “Pingjiang”. As the most completely existing ruins of the ancient Suzhou, the 1,606-meter-long Pingjiang Historical and Cultural Street still well preserves the unique city design of water and land parallel dual-board pattern constructed by Wu Zixu of Wu Kingdom in 514 B.C. when he built the He Lv Grand City. So far, in this area, the traditional urban pattern of ancient Suzhou, architectural style and customs are perfectly preserved and the rich cultural heritage has been accumulated, gathering very rich historical and cultural landscapes. Within the area, there is one World Cultural Heritage – Couple’s Retreat Garden (Ou Garden), a State-level Cultural Relics Protection Unit – Quan Jin Club, other 9 cultural protection units, and 43 Controlled and Preserved Buildings, as well as a large number of ancient buildings, ancient bridges, ancient wells, old trees, memorial arches and remains of the ancient city walls. In history, many literati and the dignitaries lived here. Up till now, the inhabitants of this region have maintained the traditional way of life.
The Pingjiang Road was awarded by United Nations in 2005 with Award of Honor on Cultural Heritage Protection in the Asia-Pacific, and was included in the preparatory list to apply for World Cultural Heritage. In 2009, Pingjiang Road won the title as one of the first 10 “Chinese History and Culture Streets”. At present, with further exploration and integration of historical and cultural resources, water-related tour has been introduced, to show the image of Suzhou Oriental Watertown. Each year, Pingjiang Lantern Fair will be held in February.
Shantang Street, with a length of 3,600 meters, is located in the northwest of the ancient city of Suzhou, linking westward the Changmen Gate and connecting westward the Tiger Hill, which is the “No. 1 scenic spot in Suzhou”. The street was built by Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi, who gathered workers to dig ditches and build roads when he was the mayor of the city of Suzhou in 825 A.D. They developed a waterway, the Shantang River, and Shantang Street to connect Tiger Hill with Suzhou and ever since, the street has been a popular tourism resort with Wu (Jiangsu Province) characteristics and plenty of ethnic customs.
Due to its unique geographical location and favorable conditions of water and land transportation, Shantang Street was one of the most developed streets of Chinese commerce and culture during the Ming and Qing dynasties. “Suzhou Street”, built by Empress Dowager Cixi of the Qing Dynasty (1861-1908) in Beijing’s Summer Palace, was modeled on Shantang Street. The restored Shantang Street, known as “the miniature of ancient Suzhou and a window of Wu culture”, collects the essence of the Suzhou natural and cultural landscapes. The streets and the water are in parallel formation, and the rivers and streets are adjacent to each other. The buildings are elegant with delicate order of arrangement. Now this pedestrian street has become an ideal leisure and recreation center with the many newly-built bars and tea houses.