Located in the centre of Ancient City of Suzhou, Guanqian Street is a pedestrian walkway boasting a large number of historical sites, flourishing commerce and many famous shops, of which some shops have a history of over a hundred years. As famous as the Nanjing Confucius Temple, Old City God Temple of Shanghai and Beijing’s Tianqiao, Guanqian Street is the best place in Suzhou for shopping, dining and entertaining.
The name of the street means a street in front of a Taoist temple. That temple is Xuanmiao Taoist Temple (Xuanmiao Guan), also called “Mysterious Sublimity Temple” or “Mysterious Essence Temple”. First built in 276 AD in the West Jin Dynasty, the temple is a landmark building and attracts numerous domestic and foreign tourists with profound Taoist culture. With its front entrance facing the street, the temple provides the thriving and noisy street with solemnity and calm. The main tourist attractions on the street include the Front Gate and the Hall of Three Purities, which hold the Statues of Three Devas and the Tablet of Lao Zi’s Portrait.
Covering an area of about 0.52km, Guanqian Street is Suzhou’s busiest downtown street. There are hundreds of shops, restaurants, bars, stores and clubs in old fashioned structures surrounded by colorful signs and neon lights along the street. Lots of shops here sell silk, Suzhou styled embroidery, sandalwood fans, folding fans, writing brushes, jade ornaments and Biluochun green tea. For centuries, they have been the city’s famous products.
Around the street, you will find quite a number of snack shops providing plum flower shaped dough cakes, meat dumpling and steamed buns, all with a distinctive Suzhou flavour. Among them, there are some well-know ones, such as Caizhizhai and Huangtianyuan Cake and Dumpling Shop. And the delicacy street in Taijian Lane is especially famous for Suzhou-style dishes.
North of the God of Wealth Hall lies a bustling flower and bird market which displays a kaleidoscope of merchandise ranging from potted trees and various flowers to goldfish, caged birds, pet dogs and cats, cricket urns and chirping insect.