Step away from the bustling in the center of the millennia-old town of Suzhou and you’ll find a wholly secluded pocket garden that houses an incredibly well-preserved set of (nearly) mirror-image pagodas.
Like most pagodas in China, you won’t be able to enter or climb the many floors. The state of semi-abandonment means that both towers, though brightly painted, are beginning to sprout a multitude of plants from their tiled roofs.
Pagodas are common in Buddhist sites of worship and can be found all across Asia, but it is rare to find two side by side in China. These Northern Song Dynasty pagodas were built in 982. They measure more than 30 meters tall, and have eight sides and seven stories apiece. The oversized iron steeples that cap each brick pagoda make up one quarter of their total heights—another rarity among pagoda designs. Although they are known as twins, the eastern tower is curiously about half a meter shorter than its western sibling.
Aside from the towering pillars, there is also a stone carving museum in the first courtyard and relics of a former temple in the second. You can see the carved stone pillars that would have supported a large structure raised off the ground. Look for the cheeky cherub-like carved figures frolicking in the leaves on these columns.
While this site doesn’t compete in foot traffic with the more famous classical gardens of Suzhou, it offers a quiet and peaceful alternative. Like many of Suzhou old town’s best kept secrets, you wouldn’t even know that these architectural gems are hidden here, so close to the busy town center.
Know Before You Go
Entry is 8 or 10 Chinese Yuan depending on the day. Visitors can enter the garden but not the pagodas themselves. Be sure to check out the Three Gorges Dam construction painting gallery next door.