Only 50 kilometers (31.1 miles) west of Shanghai, Kunshan is a charming water city lying on the south of the Yangtze River. As a satellite city in the greater Suzhou region, Kunshan is administratively at the county-level in southeast Jiangsu Province. It is like a glittering pearl between Shanghai and Suzhou. As the east gate of Jiangsu Province, Kunshan has an area of 927.7 square kilometers (358.2 square miles) and a population of 1.5 million (2006). It administers 10 towns and 2 national level development zones namely Kunshan Development zone and Export Processing Zone. Kunshan currently ranks as the most economically successful county-level administration in China.
Although Kunshan is not a well known metropolis in China, it has important cultural and historical foundations. It is the cradle of Kun Opera which has been called the 'father of all operas' in China. You can visit the Museum of Kun Opera in Kunshan City for a look at the history of this splendid piece of oriental heritage. In addition, a variety of historical sites awaits your exploration.
In China, it is said that the most beautiful natural scenery is in southern China. Kunshan, one of the cities in southern China, will never disappoint her guests. The breath-taking views of Yangcheng Lake and Dianshan Lake near Kunshan attract a great number of visitors all year round. Yangcheng Lake also supplies locals with plenty of seafood, especially the delicious Yangcheng Crab that you should be sure to try. In the urban area, Tinglin Park is really worth a visit. But the highlights of this city are the water towns, all of which are worthy tourist destinations. Zhouzhuang, the No.1 water town in China is highly praised by visitors from home and abroad, and Jinxi, Luzhi and Qiandeng are also interesting to visit.
In recent years, more and more businessmen from Taiwan have invested in Kunshan. Some of them have even settled down and married in Kunshan, which has led to the construction of many conveniences, including transportation, dining establishments, accommodations and amusement places. Although Kunshan does not have its own airport at present, it is convenient to come here from Shanghai Hongqiao and Pudong airports. From Shanghai, Suzhou, Nanjing and other large cities, it is easy for visitors to get to Kunshan by train or long-distance bus.
And don't leave Kunshan without trying some of the delicious local food, including Ao Zao Noodle, which is unique to Kunshan City. Cuisines of other provinces of China are also available in Kunshan, and the high-quality western food served in the city's star-rated hotels is also a good choice for diners.
As it concentrates on developing the economy, the local government has also put much effort into developing the tourist industry. As a result, this small city between Shanghai and Suzhou attracts more visitors each year.
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Kunshan boasts long history. It is culturally significant as the origin of Kunshan diao, the melody which ultimately evolved into Kunqu, which was presented in the Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony in 2008. Kunshan is also the birth place of Gu Yanwu, a renowned thinker and educator. Within the city, there is a town called Zhouzhuang famously known as 'the best water town in China', with a history over 1,000 years.
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On the northern subtropical belt, Kunshan is influence by a maritime monsoon climate, a mild and humid climate with distinct four seasons. There are frequent 'plum rains' between spring and summer, and it lasts for about three to four weeks. The annual average temperature is 16-17 degrees Celsius (60.8-62.6 degrees Fahrenheit) around and the rain precipitation is between 800-1,000 millimeters (31.5-39.4 inches) annually. The sunshine time is close 2,000 hours and frost-free period is 240 days yearly.
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Generally speaking, the most popular dishes in Kunshan City are Suzhou Cuisine that can be easily found in any city of Jiangsu Province. The elaborate Suzhou specialties, having a soft sweet flavor, are deeply appreciated by some visitors. Also, due to the increasing presence in Kunshan of Taiwanese business people, a number of restaurants serving Taiwanese dishes have been set up to cater for their tastes.
Of course, for many visitors, the first choice for dinner is to try the local specialties. Therefore, the three delicious cuisines of Kunshan are a must for your trip. The top one should be Ao Zao Noodle which was given its name by Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty. It is said that an authentic bowl of ao zao noodle must have fresh soup and quality toppings. The best ao zao noodle of Kunshan is cooked at Ao Zao Guan, located on Tinglin Road. This restaurant has a history of more than 100 years, serving traditional ao zao noodle. The noodles cooked here can be eaten with four kinds of toppings, among which, quick-fried fish and cold spiced duck are highly recommended. Bus Nos.1 and 12 are available for you to get there.
Every autumn, a great number of local visitors drive to Kunshan City for the delicious Yangcheng Lake Hairy Crab. Because of this, Bacheng Town, located northwest of Kunshan City and close to Yangcheng Lake, attracts many gastronomists. Coming to the town, you will be surprised by the great number of restaurants cooking crab. There are four main districts to buy crab in Bacheng Town. The traditional crab market is located on Hubin Road, with some 100 boats selling crab. Nearby, restaurants located on Bajie Road also attract a number of visitors because of their reasonable prices.
Compared with the older districts, the price of crab selling in the new crab market in Xiefang Yuan is a little higher. Bacheng Crab Garden at No.101 Xiefang Yuan is a well recommended restaurant. The last district is Yu Jia Deng Huo on Ma'anshan West Road. Here is the best place to enjoy beautiful Yangcheng Lake while having Yangcheng Lake crab. Xie Man Lou which can be found at the end of Ma'anshan West Road is an ideal restaurant here.
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After tasting the distinctive local snacks, you might think there is nothing better to take back with you. If you are going to Zhouzhuang, you are recommended to purchase several of the Wan San Series Food, among which the Wan San Ti (pig's upper leg) is preferred by a number of visitors. In addition to snacks, and because of its location, Kunshan produces a great number of quality pearls every year. If you prefer some pretty souvenirs, the quality pearl products sold in Kunshan make a good choice.
Recently, under the opening policy, the process of urbanization has strengthened in Kunshan. Some shopping centers have been formed here, including a series of name brands catering for the needs of locals. Among them, Tinglin Road is worth visiting. For many years it was already a well known road in Kunshan, where Ao Zao Guan and Tinglin Park are located. Nowadays it is preferred by locals for its number of fashion and name brands clothing stores. It is the best place to see the great changes that have happened to Kunshan.
Apart from the flourishing Tinglin Road, the Kunshan Department Store located at No.146-128 Renmin South Road is another ideal place to meet your needs in Kunshan. This department store was originally built in 1988, covering an area of 21,000 square miles totally during the expansion in the next years. At present, it gets shopping, amusement and dining together, supplying good services to customers. Another place to purchase some quality clothing is Mei Luo Department Store which is also located at Renmin Road. Both of them can be reached by taking No.2 bus.
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Zhouzhuang, one of the most famous water townships in China, situated in Kunshan City which is only 30 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of Suzhou. It is noted for its profound cultural background, the well preserved ancient residential houses, the elegant watery views and the strong local colored traditions and customs. In the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC), Zhouzhuang was a part of the fief Yaocheng and called Zhenfengli. After being donated to Full Fortune (Quanfu) Temple by Zhou Digong, a very devout Buddhist, in 1086 during the Northern Song Dynasty (960 - 1127), Zhouzhuang got its present name as a memorial of the donor.
Between Shanghai and Suzhou, there is a beautiful town named Jinxi. It is located in the southwest of Kunshan City, Jiangsu Province with an area of about 90.69 square kilometers (35 square miles) and a population of approximately 50,000. It is a typical water township of southern China with 16 lakes of different sizes and 238 river ways. However, unlike some other water townships, Jinxi Town has its own unique style. Compared with the commercial atmosphere of others, this newly developed town welcomes visitors with its quiet natural environment, places of historical interest and its cultural artifacts.
Jinxi is an old town with a history of over a thousand years. Many buildings still remain that were built in Ming (1836-1644) or Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. The man-made sceneries, such as Wenchang Pavilion, Lotus Pool Temple, together with the ancient bridges and alleyways present an elegant relaxing image of this ideal travel destination. The Eight Sceneries of Jinxi are historically well known. Many ancient poets came here and composed poetry after seeing the picturesque little town. Now, the gleaming Tomb of Concubine Chen, the antique Wenchang Pavilion and Lotus Pool Temple attract more and more visitors day by day.
Covering an area of more than 850 mu (over 140 acres), Tinglin Park is situated at the east foot of Ma'an Mountain (also named Kunshan Mountain) in Kunshan City. It was originally named Ma'an Mountain Park when built in 1906. Later, in order to commemorate the patriotic scholar Gu Yanwu (1613-1682), it was renamed Tinglin Park ('Tinglin' being the nickname of this well-respected figure) in 1936. Capitalizing on the landscape of the mountain, the park boasts charming natural scenery.
The biggest attraction in this park is the 'Three Treasures of Kunshan': Kun stone, the Eight Immortals and Twin Lotus flowers. Kun stone comes from the Kunshan Mountain. It is one of the most decorative stones with its intriguing appearance and pure jade-like texture. On the east side of Tinglin Park lies the two largest Kun stones in China. One evokes the image of a drifting cloud, the other of a flowing stream. Both of them are elegant and pure in form. The Eight Immortals flower is very rare and unique to China. What is peculiar about these the flowers is that each of them is formed by eight smaller flowers surrounding a center, each representing one of the eight immortal figures of Taoist legend, frequently pictured in a boat and denoting happiness. The flower is as big as a saucer and white as snow. Every April and May, the flowers are in full bloom, which is a sight to behold. Unlike the pure white Eight Immortals flower, the Twin Lotus flower, which stands on one stalk, seems much more fresh and graceful. The two magnificent plants boast of delicate fragrance as well as charming appearance. For exotic plant lovers, these extraordinary species will absolutely make your day and perhaps your trip.
Kunqu Opera Museum
At No.1 East Maanshan Road (Maanshan Dong Lu) in Kunshan, visitors find the Kunqu Opera Museum in Tinglin Park. Kunshan is the cradle of Kunqu Opera, which is said to be the 'ancestor of all operas' in China. In 2001, the Kunqu Opera was included on the List of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. To promote this traditional art, the Kunqu Opera Museum was established in 1993.
The design of the museum is mellow and exquisite. It is an archaized complex with a clear stream wandering through. Carved beams and painted pillars echo with winding corridors, elegant pavilions and intriguing rockeries, recapturing the scene of Kunqu Opera in ancient times. An ancient style stage and the auditorium constitute the main buildings of the museum. The museum has seven exhibition halls, displaying varied information on the Kunqu Opera.
In the No.1 Exhibition Hall, three lifelike waxwork statues of the founders of the Kunqu Opera are exhibited. Playwrights of different schools and six main troupes of the opera are introduced in the No.2 Exhibition Hall. Using the technology of reproduction of images, this hall also presents the scene of the fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911): Kangxi's appreciation of the Kunqu Opera. Other halls in the corridors show beautiful costumes, fascinating facial masks and various instruments. Information about great Kunshan artists and features of the opera is also available. In the past, corridors of this kind were also used as loges for audiences to appreciate the opera.
To the south of the corridors is the enchanting archaized stage. The overhang of this stage is patterned with 'two dragons playing with a pearl'. 420 elaborate woodcarvings of phoenixes are enchased in the dome, soaring towards the sun. Boards around the stage are engraved with the scenes of the highlights of the traditional Kunqu operas. The stage itself is a precious artwork, vividly conveying features of the Kunqu Opera.
Peonica Garden Theme Park
Peonica Garden Theme Park is located along Suhong Airport Road in Kunshan City, near Zhouzhuang. This renowned tourist attraction is famous for its appealing natural scenery and its theme is 'Return to Nature'.
The park features numerous varieties of trees and flowers including camellia, jewelled flower, cherry, lotus, magnolia, albizzia and sweet-scented osmanthus. Amongst these flowers are the famed 'three treasures' of Kunshan - the twin lotus flowers on one stalk, the water lily and the Kun Stone.
The garden's main attractions include the Lotus Pond, Buddhist Terrace and the Suspension Bridge.
In summer the Lotus Pond displays hundreds of simultaneously blooming lotus flowers in a magnificent display of natural beauty. Tourists can appreciate this wonderful scenery whilst sitting in the Lotus Pavilion beside the pond sipping a cup of tea.
At the Buddhist Terrace there are nine Arhat Pines (Buddhist Pines). The Arhat Pine gets its name because its black seed with a red stem resembles a beautiful arhat's cassock.
The Suspension Bridge spanning the Fuli River is 86 metres (282 feet) long and enjoys the reputation as the 'No.1 Suspension Bridge' in Eastern China. From the bridge, tourists admire the river banks and the panoramic view of the swimming pool and tennis court. Bold tourists may sway the bridge to experience an exhilarating feeling!
The Langouste Pond, the Fish Pond, the Labyrinth and the Wharf Amusement Area are other attractions in the park. Those who want to taste a langouste can go fishing and then cook their 'trophy' at the barbecue area. The Fish Pond and the Labyrinth are children's favourites where they will enjoy netting carp or join the Labyrinth Challenge. In the Wharf Amusement Area boats such as dragon boats, pirate boats and royal boats are available for tourists to appreciate scenery on the water. The Ginkgo Square, the Bird Observation Platform, the Rose Garden and the Orchid Hall are also worth a visit.
A Carnival is held regularly in the park where tourists can join in many activities including bungee jumping, boating, tandem cycling and playing on the swivelling swings. Also they may use a barbecue in the two barbecue areas which can hold 1,200 people at any one time.
Featuring beautiful flowers, dense green forests and limpid lakes, Peonica Garden Theme Park is a good place to appreciate the appealing natural landscape at any time of the year.
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Kunshan benefits from its position on the routes of the Shanghai-Ningxia Railway and the Shanghai-Ningxia Highway, as well as the No. 312 National Highway. So, although it does not have its own airport, the transportation system provides a fast, convenient link with the two large international airports in Shanghai reached within an hour from incoming flights. Kunshan's railway station and newly constructed bus station form a hub for links with other parts of the country, especially the other cities of Jiangsu Province. While the city itself and outlying suburbs are served by some nineteen bus routes, regular bus services go to nearby towns making it possible for visitors to travel around the area with ease. Kunshan is served by more than 700 taxis, all of which are ready to speed people along their way.
The good road links mean that many tourists visit Kunshan by car and this is particularly true during the season for crab fishing on Yangcheng Lake, when vast numbers of people swarm into the city. So, if you are planning a visit to Shanghai, why not rent a car and drive over and see Kunshan for yourself?
Should you wish to travel to Kunshan by air you have to take flights to either Shanghai Hongqiao Airport (SHA) or Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG). Shuttle buses will take you on to Kunshan. The buses to SHA and PVG depart on the hour from Kunshan Hotel. It will take you about an hour to get to SHA with a fare of CNY55 per person. The bus journey to PVG takes about 2 hours and the fare is CNY75 per person. The long-distance buses from PVG to Kunshan depart hourly from 10:30 to 19:30. The fare is CNY76 per person.
Visiting Kunshan by train is another good choice. Kunshan Railway Station is located in the southeast part of the urban area and can be reached by city-buses numbered: 1, 2, 3, 11, 12, 101, 103, 105, 106, 117, 118, 120 and 121. There are frequent trains running between Kunshan and the other cities in Jiangsu Province daily, such as Nanjing, Wuxi and Suzhou. As well as these, visitors also can take trains to and from Hangzhou, Xiaoshan, Ningbo, Yiwu and some other cities of Zhejiang Province and Shanghai. The railway also runs trains between Beijing, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Shandong, Henan and Heilongjiang provinces.
By Long-distance Bus
Originally, there were two bus stations in Kunshan. On December 27, 2006, they were united and moved to the New Bus Station of Kunshan City, at the junction of Bolu Road and the new 321 national highway. City busses 3, 6, 16, 18, 88, 103, 117, 120, 122, 124, 125 and 126 serve the new bus station. A number of modern facilities now supplied in Kunshan will definitely make for a more convenient trip.
The new station serves more comprehensive routes in all directions, and so it is said to be the No.1 bus station of Jiangsu. From here, you can easily reach most other cities in Jiangsu Province. Moreover, you can depart to or arrive from the other nine territories surrounding Jiangsu Province such as Shanghai Municipality, Anhui Province, and Hubei Province.
At present there are about 27 bus lines opening in Kunshan City, covering the most parts of this city. Generally speaking, the city-buses of Kunshan are running from 6:00 to 20:00 daily and the fare is ranging from CNY1 to CNY8. To be mentioned, the buses of No.117 and No.118 can take you to get to Bacheng Town directly from the urban district.
Although the city-buses in Kunshan can reach every part of this city, the convenient taxis are also good choices sometimes if you would like to save time. Currently, the fare of taxi in Kunshan is CNY8 for the first three kilometers. And, every waiting minute out of five minutes will add an additional charge of CNY0.36 to the passenger fare.
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