There is quite a lot of historical things to see in Luzhi Water Town, even though, compared to neighboring water towns, Luzhi is small. The most striking feature of the town is its many stone arch bridges, some, as indicated, dating back to the Song Dynasty, such as Fengyang Bridge, Guangji Bridge and Zhongmei Bridge. Dongmei Bridge and Zhengyang Bridge (the town's largest) belong to 15th century Ming Dynasty, while Jinyang Bridge belongs to 17th century Ming Dynasty.
In many places, there are plazas with shops and eateries along both sides of a canal – and with ample shade trees, to the relief of visitors – while in other places there are narrow sidewalks along a canal and in still other places a canal runs right alongside the rear part of the rows of houses. Variation is the keyword here, along with 'pleasingly quaint' and 'full of ambience'. The inhabitants go about their business as if the tourist weren't there, except for the merchants and street hawkers who cater to them. It really is a bit like being in the midst of a real, living museum!
Before you proceed a word further, we recommend that you check out this series of photos of the bridges of Luzhi. Not all of the town's bridges arerepresented, while some – the more distinctive and/or popular – are photographed from numerous angles. After you have checked out Luzhi Bridges , you can return here and continue your verbal journey through Luzhi Water Town.
Below are some of the highlights of Luzhi Water Town.
Baosheng Temple was commenced in CE 503 – as indicated earlier, during the Liang Dynasty of the Southern Dynasties Period – making the temple over 1500 years old. Its date of completion is not known. The temple's most famous feature is its collection of nine arhats*(2) that allegedly stem from the mid-Tang Dynasty period. According to some, albeit not exactly confirmed sources, a certain Yang Huizhi created these exquisite arhats. Yang Huizhi (no dates for his birth and death are given) was indeed a sculptor who studied under the renowned painter, Wu Daozhi (CE 680–740), though Yang chose three-dimensional over two-dimensional representations.
*(2) Note that an arhat is a figure depicting an arahant, or one who has attained the ultimate goal of enlightenment, or nirvana, by following in the footsteps of the first such arahant, Buddha Sakyamuni himself, who rediscovered the path to enlightenment and taught it to his followers.
The close link between two-dimensional and three-dimensional art may seem odd in today's art world, but it definitely wasn't at the time. Wu Daozhi, who became a court painter to Emperor Xuanzong (CE 685-762), himself learned representational art – both painting and sculpting – as a young apprentice to older artists of his time. As an accomplished painter, Wu Daozhi worked frenetically; everything he did was done boldly and with rapidity, and usually while consuming prodigious amounts of alcoholic beverages (one could be forgiven for believing that Picasso had read about Wu Daozhi, one of the three ancient sages of Chinese art, the other two being the sage of calligraphy, Wang Xizhi and the sage of poetry, Du Fu). Not surprisingly, the sage of painting, Wu Daozhi, had a profound, lasting influence on both contemporary and later painters and sculptors.
Yang Huizhi was known for his remarkable ability to sculpt individual figures – i.e., free-standing figures – or the sculptor's equivalent of the two-dimensional portrait, which is a much more difficult discipline than sculpting group figures. Some of his known works of art include: the Jade Emperor, found in the Taihua Taoist Temple that is situated in the Western Mountains west of Kunming, Yunnan Province; and the Sakyamuni and Licchavi Vimalakirti Buddha figures belonging to the Great Xiangguo Temple in Kaifeng*(3). Yang Huizhi is also believed to have developed the model for the Thousand-Armed Guanyin Buddha sculpture (she also had 11 heads, both of which features – the many heads and arms – was for better hearing and answering the prayers of the needy and seafarers).
*(3) Licchavi Vimalakirti Buddha belonged to the Mahayana sect and was said to be respected by Indra (a Hindu mythological figure and god of war), Brahma (one of the gods of the Hindu Trimurti, or trinity – the other two gods being Vishnu and Shiva) and all of the Lokapalas (the Lokalapas are the patron saints and protectors of all Chinese Buddhist temples and their Buddhist sacraments). Sakyamuni Buddha, as indicated above, is the famous Hindu whose quest for truth led him to rediscover Buddhism, or the path of enlightenment, for which he is known as the founding father.
The nine arhats of Baosheng Temple (see the image (Figure 9) immediately below) may well have been sculpted by the likes of a Yang Huizhi, given their exquisite workmanship. It is rare to find arhats south of the Yangtze River (these arhats are the only known such arhats in existence south of the Yangtze); it is additionally said of them that their artistic quality makes them special throughout the entire country.
Other prominent features of Baosheng Temple include a Tang Dynasty stone pillar, a Northern Song (CE 960-1279) Dynasty period stone flagpole, a Ming (CE 1368-1644) Dynasty period temple hall, an iron bell from the Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty period, and an ancient, 1300 year old, 50-meter tall Ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba), aka Maidenhair tree. Baosheng Temple also houses the tomb of Lu Guimeng, or Mr. Puli, the town's earlier namesake. The temple is located on Fu Cheng Lu (Fu Cheng Road, aka Pucheng Road), a block or so north of Wansheng Rice Shop.
Memorial Tomb of Two Royal Concubines
The tomb is a memorial to two hapless royal concubines who were executed on the order of General Sun Tzu (BCE 544-496), commanding general to King He Lu of the Kingdom of Wu, father of King Fu Chai. This part of China belonged to the Kingdom of Wu from the earliest times in China's history, or at least as far back as the 11th century BCE, which belongs to the Spring and Autumn (BCE 770-476) Period of the Eastern Zhou (BCE 770-221) Dynasty; the reader will surely have noticed the many instances of "Wu" in the area's place names.*(4)
*(4) The area even has its own unique language, Wu Chinese, which differs considerably from other Han Chinese languages, since it is an amalgam of the ancient Yue languages of the area and the Chinese that was spoken by the Han Chinese who settled in this border area of the ancient Baiyue peoples. It is a pleasingly soft language that comprises many dialects, of which the Suzhou dialect of old was considered the most prestigious, though today it has been surpassed by Shanghainese.
TThere is a rather glum tale about how the aforementioned two royal concubines met their sad fate, which tale goes as follows.
As part of Sun Tzu's application for the job of commanding general, King He Lu devised what he felt was a clever plan to test the aspirant's abilities: the aspirant would have to demonstrate that he could transform the king's harem of 180 frivolous concubines into a respectable fighting force in as short a time as possible. Confident of his abilities, Sun divided the concubines into two contingents, each to be led by one of the king's favorite two concubines. Sun ordered the two concubines to instruct their respective contingents to face right, but upon receiving the order, the concubines only giggled.
Sun addressed the assembled concubines again, telling them how important it was for them to obey their leader's orders. Again Sun commanded the two leading concubines to instruct their contingents to face right, and again the concubines all giggled, whereupon Sun ordered his guards to execute the two leading concubines, which caused the king to protest (and surely a shudder to run through the contingents!). But Sun insisted that orders were orders, a soldier had to obey his commander on the battlefield, otherwise all would be chaos. The king acquiesced, the two concubines were executed and two others chosen to take their place. When the next command was given to face right, all of the concubines obeyed, without exception.
Thus King He Lu lost his two favorite concubines, both of whom received a proper burial with honors, but he gained a commanding general whose orders would be obeyed punctiliously, of that the king was in no doubt! Sun Tzu's military strategies and principles, compiled in the book, The Art of War, were studied and practiced up until fairly recent times, also in the West (I am now convinced that my sadistic boot camp squadron commander at Lackland Air Force Base, Amarillo, Texas, diligently studied every aspect of The Art of War!).
Memorial Tomb to King Fu Chai
As indicated above, this part of China belonged to the ancient Zhou (BCE 1027-221) Dynasty Kingdom of Wu, one of whose most memorable figures was King Fu Chai, son of King He Lu whose military strategist was the renowned – and perhaps feared – General Sun Tzu. The king is not buried here, but that hasn't prevented the residents of Luzhi from honoring him with a memorial tomb (it can be a bit confusing for outsiders to comprehend, but a revered leader may have numerous memorial tombs spread round bout China, though only one burial tomb, of course).
King Fu Chai is honored for his construction of the first sections of what came to be called the Grand Canal. The canal section in question was the Han Canal, commenced in in BCE 486, that connected the Yangtze River to the south (near the city of Yangzhou, on the northern bank of the river across from Zhenjiang) with the Huai River to the north (near the city of Huai'an, just northeast of Lake Hongzhe). The capital of Wu was the city of Gusu, aka Wu, or present-day Suzhou, Jiangsu Province.
Since the ancient Hong Canal already connected the Huai River to the Yellow River, the construction of the Han Canal effectively opened up the southern part of China to development that benefitted both north and south. In particular, it increased trade and cultural ties between Wu State and the states of Song and Lu to the north (see the late Spring & Autumn period map (Figure 12), borrowed from Wikipedia, immediately below).
King Fu Chai reigned from BCE 494-473. His birth is not recorded though he died, by his own hand, in BCE 473, in order not to be taken prisoner when Wu State was toppled by Yue State. The Warring States (BCE 475-221) Period of the Eastern Zhou (BCE 770-221) Dynasty had just officially begun, but the race for hegemony had already commenced toward the end of the previous period, the Spring and Autumn Period.
Xiao House, situated on Shangtang Street, was built at the close of the 19th century, in 1889. It is typical of the Qing residences of well-to-do merchants and government functionaries for the period. The well-preserved residence, which comprises dozens of private rooms and numerous reception halls, is built in a distinctive, harmonious architectural style that integrates the elegant with the simple. It sits on a 1000-meter square property, with its own private lane – called Xiao Lane, naturally.
Wansheng Rice Shop
The Wansheng Rice Shop, located, as indicated, on Fu Cheng Road/ Pucheng Road not far from Baosheng Temple, is the former business establishment of a pair of the ancient town's rice merchants. It serves both as the present-day rice distribution center for Luzhi and its nearest upland, and also as a museum where the antique implements used in planting, cultivation and harvesting, as well as in threshing and winnowing the rice are on display.
The Former Residence of Shen Bohan
Shen Bohan was an educator during the late Qing Dynasty who lived in the town of Puli, where he eventually opened the town's first elementary school, Puli Primary School. He studied at Waseda University in Japan, specializing in pedagogy. His former residence is located on Xiang Hua Long ("Fragrant Flower Lane").
Other Notable Highlights in Luzhi Water Town
Other interesting sights to visit in Luzhi include: White Lotus Flower Temple situated on the eastern edge of the town, and built during the Northern Song Dynasty; the Pavilion of Refreshing Breeze; the Pavilion of Fighting Ducks; the Memorial Hall of Ye Shentao (an early Republic of China educator who taught from 1917-22); the Memorial to Wang Tao (a late Qing Dynasty Chinese-English translator, writer, reformer, political columnist and newspaper publisher, born as Wang Libin, in Puli); and the Memorial Tomb of Zhang Cang.
Zhang Cang was a scholar who served as high official, first as an Imperial censor (he oversaw the holding of the census – China was apparently the first country in recorded history to conduct a census; indeed, the first census may well have been conducted by Zhang Cang himself – as well as the compilation of the entire body of Imperial law codes during the Qin (BCE 221-207) Dynasty), then as a specialist in law code and mathematics during the Western Han (BCE 206 – CE 009) Dynasty under Liu Bang, aka Emperor Gaozu (reign: BCE 202–195), the first emperor of the Han Dynasty. Zhang became governor of a region for a time, then was summoned back to the royal court as chancellor (overseeing state finances) under Emperor Wen (reign: BCE 180–157). Zhang died in BCE 152 and was posthumously raised to the title of Marquis Wen.
Zhang Cang is buried in one of two earthen burial mounds, along with countless other officials, near Anling Mausoleum, itself a gigantic earth-covered burial mound located in the Baimiao village in Zhengyang town in the Weicheng district of Xianyang city (Anling Mausoleum is the site of the joint burial tomb of Liu Ying, aka Emperor Hui (reign: BCE 194-188) – second son of Emperor Gaozu and thus the second emperor of the Western Han Dynasty – and his consort, Empress Zhang).
Note that Xianyang was built by Qin Shi Huang, or Emperor Qin of the short-lived Qin Dynasty – and commissioner of the Terracotta Army – while the rebel, Liu Bang, who would establish the successor Western Han Dynasty, becoming its first emperor, built the city of Chang'an (present-day Xi'an) just across the Wei River from Xianyang. It is here, on the Xianyang side (northern bank) of the Wei River that all of the emperors and empresses of the Western Han Dynasty (plus the tombs of Qin Shi Huang and his Terracotta Army) lie buried, all in tombs inside family burial mounds, aka the Chinese Pyramids (see the image (Figure 16) immediately below); the Han Dynasty left a lasting footprint, it's not for nothing that the Chinese people thereafter would be called "Han Chinese".
Note that these burial mounds, made of mud and stamped earth, were constructed by hand – the sheer number of workers that must have been required to construct a single such mausoleum almost defies imagination, yet there are 38 of these mausoleums ranged along the northern bank of the Wei River on the northwestern perimeter of the city of Xi'an that house the earthly remains of Chinese emperors of the Qin (BCE 221-207), Han (BCE 206 – CE 220), Song (CE 960-1279) and Western Xia (CE 1038-1227) Dynasties, all of whose rulers were of Han Chinese ethnic origin, save the rulers of the Western Xia Dynasty, who were Tanguts, i.e., of Qiang ethnic origin, cousins to the Tibetans.
There is quite a lot of historical things to see in Luzhi Water Town, even though, compared to neighboring water towns, Luzhi is small. The most striking feature of the town is its many stone arch bridges, some, as indicated, dating back to the Song Dynast» more
The restaurants and stalls in Luzhi serve local Chinese fare that can also appeal to the Western palate. Besides the usual Chinese (and Jiangsu) dishes, one can find certain specialties specific to Suzhou's water towns, such as trotters (pigs feet). » more
There are many long-distance buses that arrive in Luzhi. These depart from either Shanghai or Suzhou (Luzhi lies near the main expressway, the G2 Jinghu Expy, between Shanghai and Suzhou). There is also a local bus from Tongli Water Town to Luzhi (none from Zhouzhang Water Town). » more
As Luzhi is a small and less developed place, there is no accommodation there. One-day tour for Luzhi Water Town is enough. Tourists can also spend a night in local people' houses. In fact, over-development would spoil the very nature of Luzhi as a preservation-worthy local culture.
As Luzhi is a small and less developed place, tourists can enjoy the tranquility and take a rest for hearts. One-day tour for Luzhi Water Town is enough. In fact, over-development would spoil the very nature of Luzhi as a preservation-worthy local culture.
You won't find international cultural initiatives in the town of Luzhi such as theatre and opera, or even folk song performances, for that matter, but you will find an ancient village here which, like a handful of other villages in China. » more