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.
Tomb of Concubine Chen
The water town is also an old town with a long history. It was named Chenmu for over 800 years. The reason for this name can be traced back to the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). In order to hide from an enemy's attack, Emperor Xiaozong with his concubine Chen ran away and in doing so, passed through the town. Concubine Chen was attracted by the beauty of the town and could not bear to leave. Unfortunately, Chen died of illness in Jinxi and Emperor Xiaozong was very grieved and buried her body in the town's Wubao Lake. He also ordered the name Jinxi be changed to Chenmu in memory of his lover. It is said that the tomb has never been submerged even when the whole town was flooded. It is not until 1993 that the town regained the name of Jinxi.
Wenchang Pavilion is the best preserved historical site in Jinxi Town. It is located in the south of the town and has a height of 15.8 meters (52 feet). Mostly, people built Wenchang Pavilions in big cities where education levels were high. It is unusual to find such a pavilion built in a town. From this point of view, we can see the profound cultural deposit of the town. It is recorded that many scientists and scholars arose here. So, it is thought that Wenchang Pavilion is the symbol of the prosperous culture of Jinxi.
As a water township, Jinxi has high density of lakes. Bridges are an essential part of the people's daily life. People know Jinxi as having 36 bridges and 72 brick kilns. Actually, the density of the bridges here is really unusual. There are 26 bridges in the old district of Jinxi within an area of 1 square kilometer (247 acres), more than in Suzhou, the most famous water town of China. Moreover, nearly all the old bridges are well protected and the couplets and designs delicately engraved on the bridges form a unique bridge culture of the water townships. Among them, the most well-known bridges are as follows:
Taiping Bridge which is located in the west of the town was built in 1552. People can enjoy most of the so called Eight Sceneries of Jinxi from the bridge. There is a custom of crossing the bridge when there is a wedding or a funeral, with the aim of gaining a peaceful life and good health.
Shuanghe Bridge, built in Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), was originally two bridges. But later, the two were unified. In the past, Shuanghe Bridge was a famous scenic spot, and the branches and the leaves of willows and peach trees on both sides swung in the breeze. But now, with the passing of time, it has become the town center. When standing on the bridge, people recalling the past in light of the present, sigh with emotion.
Shiyan Bridge was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Its architectural style is simple and delicate. There are nine poles and ten holes in the bridge and the length of it is 52 meters (57 yards). The stones with couplet dismantled from memorial arches lay on the body of the bridge. When people walk on the bridge, they can see the Chinese characters on the stones clearly. This is rare amongst rural water townships. It is an ideal place to pass time on a leisurely summer's day.
Lihe Bridge, commonly referred to as Nantang Bridge, South Kwan-Yin Bridge, was built in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and rebuilt twice in 1407 and 1747. It is made of bluestone and granite and is the highest ancient bridge with the longest span in the old town.
Additionally, Zhongan Bridge, Puji Bridge, Puqing Bridge and Tianshui Bridge are also famous bridges with their own characteristics.
In addition to historical sites, the Jiangsu government added some cultural scenery to the old town. The great numbers of collections give Jinxi its own character and make it stand out from the neighboring water townships. Red Porcelain Museum, Zhangsheng Art Gallery, Root Carving Museum and Wonder Stone Museum will dazzle your eyes. Interestingly the people of Jinxi have a habit of collecting things. There are over ten personal collection museums of different kinds in this little town, such as a Pottery and Porcelain Museum, Antique Museum and Old Coins Museum. It is really worthy of the name of Home of the Folk Museums of China.
Amongst all the museums, the most famous one is the Ancient Tile Museum which is located in Ding House, in the middle of Shangtang Street. It is the only Old Tile Museum in China. There are over 2,300 items with high historical and artistic value covering 5,000 years on display.