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Tongli Overview


The city of Tong li (or Tongli as it is generally written) in Jiangsu Province, is situated between Lake Tai and Shanghai. More specifically, it is located about 10 kilomters west-northwest of the slightly larger city of Zhouzhuang and 180 kilometers south of the considerably larger city, Suzhou. Tongli is surrounded by five lakes: Jiuli, Nanxing, Pangshan, Yeze and, of course, Lake Tongli, and is crisscrossed by a network of canals that are fed by the confluence of three rivers. Fishermen of Tongli fish the lakes here using cormorants, an ancient and effective custom that has been the subject of a program on National Geographic Magazine's TV channel. Most of the buildings in Tongli are situated along the waterways, hence the city's nickname as the Little Venice of the East.

There are numerous rivers and canals, 40 stone arch bridges and countless buildings in Tongli that date from the Ming (CE 1368-1644) and Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty period, and, as well, many famous Chinese artists and members of the literati of the same period made Tongli their home. The city is famous for its "flowing water and small bridges and houses", it's essence having once been captured in the following characterization: "one garden, two halls and three bridges" [the "one garden" being Tuisi Garden, the "two halls" being Gengle and Gongben Mansions (sometimes called halls), and the "three bridges" being Taipeng, Jili, and Changqing Bridges... more on these farther below]. The most unique thing about Tongli is that it is built across a wide stretch at the confluence of three rivers, where there are a number of small islands, all of which are interlinked – and linked to the part of the city on the river's banks, via stone arch bridges. Because the bridges cross three rivers, they are called ternate bridges. Another difference between Tongli and some other so-called watertowns (i.e., canal towns) is that in Tongli, the canals and the rows of houses are separated by streets.

Tongli Highlights

In addition to its charming water scenes, Tongli is home to Tuisi Garden, aka the Retreat and Reflection Garden (Retreat Garden, for short). » more

Tongli Food

Tongli has a gentle, slightly humid climate, with lots of river branches that contain various edible fishes and aquatic plants. » more

Tongli Transportation

There are direct buses from Shanghai and Suzhou to Tongli. At Zhouzhuang, there are small buses going to Tongli which involve a journey of about ½ hour. » more

Tongli Accommodation

Chuanxin Alley, archaic yet elegant, is worthy of special mention, its bluestone pathways providing a hint of the city's ancient cultural flavor. » more

Tongli Itinerary

Although Tongli is small, its streets are relatively wide, with dwellings and business establishments alternating with noteworthy cultural and historical sites. » more

Tongli Travel Tips

You can rent a gondola (long boat) w/boatman for a quiet tour on the river– the price is 60 Yuan for a standard, 30 minute ride. » more


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