Suzhou Shantang Street is adjacent to Changmen Gate in the east, and reaches Tiger Hill in the west. With a history of more than 1,100 years, Shantang Street features houses with white washed walls and black tiles as well as a canal that runs along the street. Its layout best represents the characteristics of Suzhou’s old alleys. The street itself is 7 li (just over two miles), hence the popular name “Seven-Li Shantang”.
Shantang Street was called Baigong Causeway in the past to commemorate Bai Juyi, who built the street in 825 AD. When Bai Juyi, a famous poet of the Tang Dynasty, was mayor of the city of Suzhou, he got the people to dig ditches and build roads. 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.
Shantang Street became prosperous in the Song Dynasty after many private villas and ancient bridges and architectural structures had been built. It used to be the largest commercial street of Suzhou. “Suzhou Street”, built by Empress Dowager Cixi of the Qing Dynasty (1861-1908) in Beijing’s Summer Palace, was modeled on Shantang Street.
(The four Chinese characters on the wall mean “Seven-Li Shantang”.)
The renovated old street gathers a large number of time-honored shops, various types of civilian residences, old temples, ancestral halls, ancient bridges, memorial arches, and guildhalls, representing the exquisite scenery of Shantang. Now this pedestrian street has become an ideal leisure and recreation center with the many newly-built bars and tea houses.