Panmen Gate stands at the southwestern
corner of Suzhou and can be accessed by taking Bus No.
7. With a history of 2,500 years, this city gate is the
most completely preserved part of the ruins of the ancient
city of Suzhou. Stepping onto the top of the gate, you
can see the Wumen Gate Bridge and the Auspicious Light
Pagoda. Together, they are popularly known as the Three
Scenes at Panmen Gate.
Construction of Panmen Gate began in the first year of
the reign of He Lu, King of Wu. Although it has been renovated
and rebuilt many times through the ages, its location
has never changed an inch.
The present Panmen Gate was rebuilt in the
11th year of the reign of Zhizheng in the end of the
Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and renovated during the following
Ming and Qing dynasties. With water gates and land gates
towering side by side, Panmen Gate looks very imposing.
The land gate consists of double gates, one inside and
the other outside, with city walls forming a square
terrace of about 20 meters long on each side. Once the
invading enemies were seduced into this place, they
would be like turtles locked in a jar.
The gate tower we see today was rebuilt
in 1986. It looks magnificent, with flying eaves and
up-turning corners. Equipped with all kinds of facilities
needed in ancient defensive battles, such as shooting
holes, sluice gateways and lookout towers, the city
gate seems to have brought the ancient city of Suzhou
back to us.
Panmen Gate is a fortress suitable for ancient water-towns
like Suzhou in the southern part of China. The two water
gates adjoining the land gates are the only water pass
linking the inside and outside of the southwestern corner
of the city. Built with granite, each of them has enough
room for two boats passing side by side. For each gate
there is a huge sluice gate to control the water flow.
It is easy to imagine the prosperous sights then that
the double water and land gates of Panmen Gate shined
on the Great Canal, when horses and carriages went through
the pass with flags fluttering, and boats paddling through
the water gates.
Wumen Gate Bridge is located on the Beijing-Hangzhou
Great Canal beside Panmen Gate. Looking like a rainbow
hung in the sky, it is the longest stone one-arched
bridge in Suzhou. Construction of Wumen Gate Bridge
began in the Northern Song Dynasty, but the bridge seen
today was rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty. As it was the
gateway to the Wu state, the bridge was named Wumen
A huge stone arched bridge, Wumen Gate
Bridge is about six meters high and 63 meters long.
In each of its south and north ends, there are 48 steps
made out of a whole rectangular slab of five meters
long and 0.5 meter wide. The whole Wumen Gate Bridge
was built with carefully and precisely sculpted granite
from the Jinshan Hill and the seams were filled with
mixture of alum, glutinous rice soup and lime. That
is why the bridge remains as solid as it was newly built,
though hundreds of years have passed. On the bridge,
one can have a clear view of the gate tower of Panmen
Gate and the Auspicious Light Pagoda. In the river,
there is a prosperous sight of boats sailing competitively
in the Great Canal.
The Auspicious Light Pagoda was originally
an attached building of the Buddhist Monastery of Universal
Relief. It was built by Sun Quan, King of Wu, during
the Three Kingdoms period. The current Auspicious Light
Pagoda was from the early years of the Northern Song
Dynasty and its wooden parts went through several renovations
during the Song, Ming and Qing Dynasties. It is the
second oldest structure of its kind in the Suzhou area,
next to the Tiger Hill Pagoda only.
Standing 44.42 meters high, the pagoda is
a seven-storey octagon structure. Its elegant figure
is reflected in the Great Canal. And either in daybreak
or twilights when sunrays shoot on its body cast upon
its roof, the pagoda looks particularly magnificent.
If you climb onto the pagoda by following the stairs
and looking into the distance, you will have a panoramic
view of the picturesque water-land in the Yangtze River