With a rich history of over 2,000 years, Guangfu is a tiny ancient water town lying 22 km west of the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou. The town falls on the shores of Taihu Lake, the 3rd largest natural lake in China. In the Datong period of the Southern Liang Dynasty, the powerful ruling Gu family abandoned their residence and built the Guangfu Temple. They then renamed the town "Guangfu" in their honour. Various ranges of luxuriant hills surround the town.
In Guangfu Town, tourists can visit the Guangfu Temple and the Guangfu Tower (known as the Guangfu Pagoda). The cost to visit the Guangfu Temple is 12RMB, and this gives the visitor entrance to the tower as well. The tower offers splendid views across to the town, and the lake. The rest of the view in the horizon is somewhat obscured by the hills. Dengwei hill is situated south of the town has been covered with plum trees since the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-25). In late winter and early spring, plum blossoms end up transforming the slopes into a sea of flowers, which is the famous "sea of fragrant snow."
Located around a 20 minute bus ride (take bus number 64 from Guangfu town just outside the temple) is the magnificent Qionglong Mountain (pronounced: Qionglong Shan). The mountain is excellent for hiking and has numerous trails which would quite easily allow you to explore around a whole day to explore. This mountain has a cultural significance because one of China’s most influential emperors, Qianlong, is said to have climbed the mountain on all six of his trips to this part of China.
The story says that on one of his trips the emperor fell to his knees to worship the spirit of his father and from where his knees fell, two separate springs arose. That very spot is still there today known as the ‘Knees spring’. To get to the peak of the mountain takes around an hour and a half- though can be quicker if you can do it. There are two beautiful temples on the peaks. The one with the most significance is Shangzhen Temple, and it’s quite spectacular in size too. You may find a few surprises there, as I did on my trip.
How to get to Guangfu, and Qionglongshan?
From downtown Suzhou you can take bus number 2 to Mudu (or the metro line 1 to Mudu), and then take bus number 64 or 63 from Mudu to Guangfu (cost is around 3 or 4 RMB per person). The journey from downtown Suzhou to Mudu takes around an hour, and about a similar amount of time from Mudu to Guangfu. If you want to go to Qionglong Mountain, the it’s probably best to take bus number 64 as that bus stops right outside Qionglong Mountain, and then continues to Guangfu (and Mudu if you are going towards downtown Suzhou).
You can also take a taxi from downtown Suzhou to Guangfu (costs around 100RMB), and to Qionglongshan (costs around 80RMB)
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