Pan Men Scenic Area
The Pan Pacific Hotel in Suzhou is connected to the Pan Men Scenic Area via a side gate. Hotel guests get free access to Pan Men Scenic Area (盘门景区） just by producing the room card. Pan Men Scenic Area opens from 6.30am in the morning. So since we were staying at the Pan Pacific on this one night stopover in Suzhou during our business trip, my colleague and I decided to check out the Scenic Area after an early breakfast before we checked out of the hotel that day.
Pan Men Scenic Area has 3 main attractions : Pan Gate, Ruiguang Pagoda and Wu Gate Bridge.Entering the Scenic Area via the Hotel gate, you cross a typical Chinese arch bridge and see a lake and the garden in front of you. On the right is a view of the Ruiguang Pagoda in the distance and on the right you will see the Premier Wu Zixu’s Memorial Temple. We walked along the path, through winding corridors towards Premier Wu Zixu’s Memorial Temple. Canglang (长廊), meaning long corridors, are typical and unique of Suzhou architecture and is a common feature in Suzhou gardens. The Premier Wu Zixu’s Memorial Temple is directly across lake from the Ruiguang Pagoda in a straight line with symmetric pagodas and corridors on both sides. Taking a loop from the temple along the opposite from where we came from, we arrived at Ruiguang pagoda. The Ruigang Pagoda, built is 247 is the earliest pagoda in Suzhou. It is constructed of brick with wooden platforms and has simple Buddhist carvings at its base. We moved on to Pan Gate. Pan Gate or Pan Men (盘门) is a historical landmark in Suzhou. It is located on the south-west corner of the Main Canal. Pan Gate is part of the ancient city wall that surrounded and protected Suzhou. It was the only entrance to the wall that surrounded ancient Suzhou. Located next to the Suzhou section of the Grand Canal, it has a complex of both land and water city gates. Walking under Pan Gate, we exit from the South Entrance of the Scenic Area, bringing us to the canal. The canal was beautiful with willow trees on one side and old Jiangnan architectural style buildings on the other. I can just imagine that it would have been a prosperous and busy area in its hay days. Just outside the Scenic Area, spanning the canal is the Wu Gate Bridge or Wumen Bridge （吴门桥). Wumen bridge was originally constructed during the Northern Song Dynasty but was rebuilt in the reign of Emperor Tongzhi of the Qing Dynasty. Likened to a rainbow, it spans the Grand Canal in a single arch. Wumen Bridge was the only entrance to the Panmen Gate from across the other bank of the Grand Canal during its time. Now, it is the highest ancient stone one-arched bridge presently preserved in Suzhou. From the top of Wumen Bridge, one gets a different view of Pan Gate overlooking the Grand Canal. After this, we backtracked into the Scenic Area to go back to our hotel. It was a pleasant morning walk in the cool late spring weather. We got back in good time for a quick shower before checking out. This short overnight stopover has given me an opportunity to have a sample of what Suzhou has to offer. I hope to be able to come back at another time for a short holiday to explore the other more famous gardens in Suzhou.