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Pingjiang Road


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Pingjiang Road

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by CAROL MARTINDALEIt was a cool and easy stroll down Pingiang Road as we took in the richness of one of the most historic streets in Suzhou, Jiangsu province in China.The street, which is busy with vehicular and pedestrian traffic despite its narrowness, received an honourable mention from UNESCO in 2005 when it took the Asia Pacific Heritage Award for Culture Heritage Conservation.It was a clear sunny day in China when members of the media group took a walk through the street, shunning bicycles and cars as they manoeuvred through the road.As is the case with many other sites in China, there is a strong history attached to this road which the tour guide was only too happy to share.With a small mic attached to her shirt as she walked ahead of us trying to guide our eyes to the historical homes, she noted that of the 45 remaining ancient bridges in Suzhou, 13 were located in the Pingjiang historical block. Some of these, she said, were about 800 years old.As we walked through, the drab colours of white, black and grey dominated. Truth be told, had we not been informed by the guide, and had their not been a stone with the note attached highlighting its heritage award, Pingjiang would just be any other ordinary road in China.There are tall walls which also enclose and shield what we were told were grand homes which belonged to affluent and wellknown people at one time. But that was then. What remains is just the history that indicates to visitors how very important this area was.Forty of the ancient architectures in the Pingjiang block are listed as being under “control and protection”.Some of these homes, the tour guide said, once belonged to bureaucrats and wealthy merchants. Some were also former homes of renowned cultural celebrities.One story told to us was gripping, yet amusing to our ears.There is a bridge situated along Pingjiang called the “Cake Bridge” which was named after a man who used to bring cake for his mother every day. One day, however, he couldn’t work and therefore couldn’t buy the cake for his mother. He was then forced to make a “cake” from snow.This story, as weird as it sounded, was true and showed how much this man loved his mother. The street is also rich in history.The museum for the Kunqu opera is also located there. In it there is an assembled stage for Kunqu performances in the late Qing Dynasty – an important item for exhibition in the China Kunqu Museum. History shows it used to be assembled for performances to wealthy families with the musicians sitting on three sides of the stage.

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