Panmen Gate stands at the southwestern corner of the ancient city 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 Gate Bridge.
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 Delta.