Eight city gates of Suzhou dressed up with red couplets
2018-02-10 13:26:00


Giant Spring Festival couplets, 9 meters long and 1.2 meters wide, were hung up on eight ancient city gates in Suzhou of Jiangsu province, Feb. 10, adding festival mood to the city.

The ancient city walls have witnessed the ups and downs of Suzhou, while Spring Festival couplet and calligraphy stand for traditional Chinese cultures. The activity greatly integrated these three cultural elements, showing the vigorous cultural development of the city.

Cultural activities, including lion dance, dragon dance and waist drum dance, were performed at the ceremony. Calligraphers also sent free Spring Festival couplets to citizens. As one of the sponsors, Xinhua Daily Media Group posted the soliciting initiative online, and attracted a record high of more than 5000 participants and over 6000 pairs of couplets in 20 days.

Spring Festival, or the Chinese Lunar New Year, is one of the most important festivals in China. Couplet on front door is one of the traditional cultural customs during Spring Festival to express wish for life renewal and the return of spring. With a history of over 2500 years, the eight ancient gates in Suzhou, namely, Changmen, Shemen, Panmen, Jinmen, Loumen, Xiangmen, Qimen, and Pingmen, are the most representative gates in Suzhou.

Changmen Gate, the west gate of Suzhou city, was originally built during the Spring and Autumn Period (722-476BC). Streets along Changmen used to be the most prosperous downtown area across the nation in the Ming and Qing dynasties. During the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (1851-1864) period, the enclosure of Changmen Gate was destroyed and only the inner city gate and supporting gate remained. In 1927, the municipal government dismantled the supporting gate and the narrow old city gate and reconstructed a Roman style gate in 1934. The reconstructed Changmen Gate has three gateways with a central one for vehicles and the other two for sidewalks.

Shemen Gate has a wooden snake on it. During the Spring and Autumn Period, there were seventy states in the country. Suzhou then belonged to the State of Wu, neighboring the State of Yue. History goes that Shemen Gate was built to show superiority over Yue, whose national symbol was snake. Ironically, the State of Wu was at last eliminated by its neighbour Yue.

Panmen Gate, another gate against neighboring Yue, was the best preserved ancient land and water gate in China. It was reconstructed during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and renovated again during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). It was listed as a municipal-level cultural relics protection site in 1963, and a provincial-level one in 1982. As one of the ancient architecture from Yuan Dynasty, it was included in the sixth batch of Major Historical and Cultural Site Protected at the National Level in 2006.

Jinmen Gate, built in 1922, is located at the western part of the city. Also in Roman style, it has three gateways and is now a municipal-level cultural relics protection site.

Loumen Gate, in the northeast part of Suzhou, consists of an outer, central, and inner section. There used to be a gate tower on the inner section and sluice gates between the three sections, along with locked gates. The towers of the three sections were dismantled in 1948, and the inner gate was removed in 1958. It was renovated again in 2013.

Xiangmen Gate, located at the east part of Suzhou, was originally named Jiangmen, with “Jiang” meaning craftsman in Chinese. There used to be a dwelling place for craftsmen, and thus the name Jiangmen came into being. It was demolished after the foundation of PRC, and rebuilt in 2012.

Qimen Gate is located to the north of the downtown area of Suzhou. According to legend, a Qi princess, whose nation was destroyed by the State of Wu, was married off to the prince of Wu. She missed her home so much that she wept day and night and fell ill. The king had the gate built facing toward Qi and built a gate tower so the princess could gaze at Qi. In the early 1960s, the gate tower was dismantled and in 1978, the water gate was removed.

Pingmen Gate, located at the north part of Suzhou, is the gate which the famous general Wu Zixu walked through at the heroic expedition against the State of Qi and the triumphant return. The gate was demolished in 1958 and rebuilt in 2012.

Contact us at english@jschina.com.cn

Source: jschina.com.cn Editor: Nicky