Tongli Town

Map of Tongli Town
Map of Tongli Water Town (Click to enlarge)
Originally named Futu (meaning a rich land), Tongli is an age-old but very well preserved water town with a history of more than 1,000 years. Located on the eastern shore of Taihu Lake, just 11 miles (18 kilometers) from Suzhou City, the town is 24 square miles (63 square kilometers) in area and has a population of over 33 thousand. True to its reputation, Tongli water town is a really wonderful travel destination where you can spend a marvelous holiday or experience traditional Chinese culture. Follow this introduction and you will have a general idea of this captivating water-town.

Cultural History

Tongli is a town with a profound cultural background and achievement. From ancient times, it has been teeming with poets, painters, Confucian scholars and government officials. Their abilities have made great contributions to progress in many areas of the country. Dozens of stone tablets from different periods are preserved here and many of the streets are named after their official titles. Walking through the alleys of this venerable water town, one cannot fail to appreciate its pristine and intoxicating atmosphere. In 1981 Tongli was declared one of the thirteen national standard tour towns of the Taihu Lake region. In addition, in 1982 it was listed for protection as the standard provincial town of cultural interest in Jiangsu Province.

Ancient Bridges

These are the vital links between the different parts of town. Forty-nine stone bridges in a variety of styles join the seven islands created by fifteen rivers and five lakes upon which Tongli Town stands. Each bridge has a name and these examples will give you an idea of the poetic nature of the inhabitants. Perhaps the most notable are Peace and Tranquility Bridge (Taiping Bridge), Luck Bridge (Jili Bridge) and Lasting Celebration Bridge (Changqing Bridge). These are known as Ternate Bridges as they cross three rivers at their confluence and form a natural ring road.
Tongli Town, Suzhou
 Tongli Town Pictures
Bridges act the common connecter of different parts of the town
Bridges link different parts of the town
The small and exquisite Taiping Bridge was built during the reign of emperor Jiaqing of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911); Jili Bridge is an arch bridge and inscribed with age-old couplets describing the beautiful painting-like views at either end; Changqing Bridge, also named Guangli Bridge, was originally constructed in 1470 and rebuilt by Xiezhen in 1704. Ternate Bridges are propitious symbols in the eyes of the local residents and they walk over them for good luck during wedding or birthday parties.

The oldest bridge in the town is Reflecting Origin Bridge (Siben Bridge) which was built in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) while the smallest bridge is called Single Step (Dubu) which is only 5 feet (1.5 meters) in length and less than 3 feet (1 meter) in width. Standing motionlessly for hundreds of years, the bridges bear witness to the vicissitudes of history and remain an indispensable part of the town.

Residential Houses

Tongli water town deserves its reputation of a 'museum of ancient architectures' as there are good many houses and temples dating from the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911). Built along the riversides and decorated with flying eaves, carved windows, porcelain furniture, figured clay bricks, dapper gardens and small stairs leading down to the water, these complexes mean Tongli is a shining pearl among the water-towns south of Yangtze River.

An elegant house in the town
An elegant house
Residential house in the town
Old residential house in Tongli

Retreat and Reflection Garden (Tuisi Garden)

Tongli Town, Suzhou
Tongli, an ancient water town

Built by the retired official Ren Lansheng from 1885 to 1887, Retreat and Reflection Garden is the most spectacular in the town. Its name is derived from an aphorism expressed in a very famous biography called Zuo Zhuan written by Zuo Qiuming in the Eastern Zhou period (770 BC-221 BC): 'Be loyal to the emperor when in officialdom; be meditative upon the previous faults while away from officialdom'. The ingenious design for the garden conforms to the local landforms and conditions and covers about 700 square meters (one fifth acre). Compact and  harmonious, the garden is in two parts. The residential area in the west consists of an outer house and an inner house including the sedan hall, the tea hall, a main reception hall and two buildings forming the actual dwelling. The garden in the east has ponds, marble boats, waterside pavilions, halls, kiosks, verandas, rockeries and bridges. Together with flourishing trees and colorful flowers, the garden greets visitors with its beauty and charm whatever the season.

How to Get to Tongli from Suzhou/Shanghai/Hangzhou?

From Suzhou:

1. Take a bus from the north square of Suzhou Railway Station or from Suzhou North Bus Station/South Bus Station, at a fare of CNY 8.
2. Take Rail Transit Line 4 and get off at Tongli Station. Then transfer to the tourist bus bound for the north entrance of Tongli. If you have the entrance ticket of Tongli Town, you can take the bus for free. The bus departs every 30 minutes between 08:00 and 17:00. Or you can take bus 725 from the subway station, and get off at Shipailou Station. Walk for 200 meters (220 yards) northward and you can see the south entrance of the town.
Suzhou Bus Search

From Shanghai:

Take a tourist bus from the General Station of the Shanghai Tour Bus Center or Hongkou Branch to the town.

From Hangzhou:

Take a bus from Hangzhou North Bus Station to Tongli. The bus runs respectively at 07:50, 10:35 and 12:55.

Admission Fee CNY 100 (including 10 scenic spots)
Free of charge for children below 4.6 feet (1.4 meters).

1. The ticket is valid for two days at most. Tourists who plan to stay overnight have to declare when buying the tickets and get the tickets stamped at the ticket office.
2. One can enter the town without a ticket from 18:00 to 6:00 the next morning, but can not visit any of the scenic spots inside without a ticket.
Opening Hours The town is open all day long.
The scenic spots inside are open from 7:30 to 17:30;
The Retreat and Reflection Garden has an additional open from 18:30 to 21:30 on the weekends in summertime.
Boat CNY 90 for a rowboat
A boat allows six people at most and a cruise takes about half an hour.
Sightseeing Car CNY 10 per person

 Other water towns around Suzhou:
 Luzhi Town
 Guangfu Ancient Town
 Mudu Ancient Town
 Zhouzhuang Water Town
 Shaxi Ancient Town 

 Top 10 Things to Do in Suzhou 
- Last modified on Jan. 22, 2019 -
Questions & Answers on Tongli Town
Asked by Paul Terhorst from NEDERLAND | Jan. 21, 2019 12:14Reply
How can we (6 persons) get from Tongli water town to Nantong in the evening?
We are taking the train from Shanghai to Suzhou (Jiangsu) on Friday April 19; please advise us how to get to Tongli water town. In the afternoon we need to go to Nantong to visit our daughter who is studying there. What is the best way to go from Tongli water town to Nantong? How long does it take? Thank you in advance for your advise. Paul Holland
Answers (3)
Answered by Emerson from USA | Jan. 21, 2019 18:55

Do you arrive at Suzhou Railway Station from Shanghai?
If yes, you can take the a coach at the North Square of the Suzhou Railway Station and get to Tongli.
The bus schedule are from 06:10 to 18:00. The duration is about 40mins.

From Tongli to Nantong, there is no direct coach. You need to take a coach go back to Suzhou first. Then transfer to a coach to Nantong.
Answered by Paul Terhorst from NETHERLANDS | Jan. 22, 2019 11:58

Thank you ;-)
Do you know if there is a direct bus from Suzhou to Nantong and how long the trip takes?
Answered by Emerson | Jan. 22, 2019 18:56

You can take the direct coach from Suzhou North Coach Station. The bus schedules are from 06:10 to 19:30. The ticket fare is CNY48 per person. Generally speaking, it takes around 2 hours on the way.
Asked by Ong from MALAYSIA | Dec. 06, 2018 19:24Reply
Shuttle bus from Suzhou Tong Li station

I will take line 4 metro train from SZ to Tong Li. Can i still board the tourist bus if i dont have the Tong li town admission ticket? Because i will buy the admission ticket at Tong Li town entrance. Thank you.
Answers (1)
Answered by Quinn from USA | Dec. 06, 2018 22:20

You can take the tourist bus but you have to pay for it. But if you get the admission ticket at the metro station, you can take a free ride.
Asked by Sabrina from ITALY | Jul. 04, 2018 09:18Reply
Where can we buy the ticket to visit the ancient town of Tongli?
We arrive from Shanghai by train to Suzhou and then we take the metro n. 4.
Thank you
Answers (1)
Answered by Lisa from BELGIUM | Jul. 05, 2018 19:12

You can buy the tickets at the entrance of the scenic area.
Asked by Fitzfloyd from AUSTRALIA | Jan. 23, 2018 23:41Reply
I am interested in taking a bus from Tongli to Hangzhou in April 2018.
1. Is there a bus in the morning, say around 10.30 am?

2. Is the bus comfortable? Would I be able to board with my luggage, which is a suitcase weighing about 20 kg?

3. Is the journey scenic?

4. Would it be better to travel by train - Suzhou to Hangzhou?
Answers (4)
Answered by Edgar from GERMANY | Jan. 24, 2018 00:42

The first two buses leave from TL Bus Station at 08:00 and 10:25. They are very comfortable and have luggage compartment which can hold your luggage that is allowed to take.

In my experience, the scenery is beautiful along the trip, better than high speed train. But if you wish, it is also fine to take a normal train from Suzhou to Hangzhou.
Answered by fitzfloyd from AUSTRALIA | Jan. 24, 2018 17:04

Thanks so much for your reply, which answers my questions exactly. The information you've given will improve our holiday experience. We will take the comfortable bus and enjoy the scenery. In appreciation
Answered by fitzfloyd from AUSTRALIA | Jan. 27, 2018 21:05

One further question - How do I book tickets on the bus from the town to Hangzhou?
Answered by Lara from UK | Jan. 28, 2018 19:47

You can book it from the Official Web of the Suzhou General Bus Station
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