Back LakeBehind the Longevity Hill, the Kunming Lake narrows significantly, forming the Back Lake (Houhu). Longevity Hill is covered with many structures and since it is surrounded by water on three sides, the lake is convenient for fire-fighting when need arises. On the opposite side of the lake, there is a stretch of rockeries.
The secluded and quiet lake wanders its way and varies in width, rendering a great deal of fun and amusement. In the western section, peculiar huge rocks perched on the banks are a vivid representation of the marvelous scenery of the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River. The section in the middle of the lake is characterized by the Suzhou Market Street with shops lining both banks, a unique scene of the Water Town south of the Yangtze River. This tranquil lake ends at the Garden of Harmonious Interests which serves as an exquisite epilogue.
Suzhou Market StreetThe Suzhou Market Street (Suzhoujie), located behind Longevity Hill, is the middle section of the Back Lake. The Market is great fun, because the lake serves as the street with the stalls and shops on its banks. It has all the features of other market streets in Suzhou, a famous 'Water Town' in China. The ancient-style street, about 300 meters (328 yards) long, transports the tourist back to the mid-18th century of China.
It was built originally during the reign of Emperor Qianglong to give the emperor and his empress and concubines the experience of shopping in the Water Town. At that time, the eunuchs would act as clerks and shopkeepers, lending an air of realism to the experience. Over sixty old-styled stores, including restaurants, teahouses, pawn shops, banks, drugstores, clothing shops, dyers and publishing houses line the banks. The storekeepers, shop assistants, boaters and policemen on patrol are all dressed in costumes of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Garden of Harmonious InterestsThe Garden of Harmonious Interests (Xiequyuan) was the place where emperors and empresses went fishing and took in the scenery. The garden was modeled after a garden in Southeast China, which indicates that the Summer Palace is a museum of Chinese gardens. At the center of the garden is a pool with lotus flowers which are in full bloom during the summer. The pool is accentuated by nearby pavilions, towers and cloisters. The water warbles over its rocky bed, playing a harmonious musical chord. The tower appears to be only one storey but actually has multiple floors. What a wonderful tower!Bridges perch over the pond, and are a perfect addition to the landscape and blend in with the elegant character of the site.
During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Emperor Qianlong, the fourth successor, conducted his inspection tours to the areas south of the Yangtze River. On his visits, he was so deeply impressed by a garden at the foot of Mt. Hui in Jiangsu Province, that he had a garden with the name of 'Mt. Hui Garden' built in 1751 in the image of the garden at Mt. Hui. In 1881, the garden was restored and given the name 'Garden of Harmonious Interests'. Burnt down by the Anglo-French Allied Forces, the garden was reconstructed during the reign of Emperor Guangxu.