This page is a continuation of Part 1 of the webpage.
Prosperous Suzhou 姑蘇繁華圖 (Part 1) – Patrick Siu Chinese Calligraphy & Landscape Painting 蕭燿漢談書畫 Transportation on land
Most people go on foot. Some rich people travel on sedan chairs. High ranking government officials ride on horseback.
Two porters are carrying a sedan chair
Five sedan chairs are waiting for their passengers. Four of them have a blind in front probably made of bamboo matt for the privacy of the passengers. One does not have a blind.
A high ranking official riding on horseback
Eateries and Restaurants
A restaurant on the first floor with a sign of ‘Catering for banquets (包辦酒席)’
Customers chatting and enjoying each other’s accompany. Delicious dishes are served on the tables.
This restaurant on the first floor serves noodles (麵), and Chinese ravioli (餛飩).
The tea house upstairs serves tea (茶) and Chinese ravioli (餛飩).
This two storey restaurant caters (包辦) for banquets (酒席).
Another tea house (茶室) and restaurant (酒館).
People at Leisure
Besides seeing the bustling activities in the market places, rivers and government offices, we can also see some people enjoying their leisure time. Many of these activities are related to their cultural and artistic pursue.
People walk leisurely and chat with each other along a track up the mountain side, with a monk in yellow gown and a rod.
Three people are sitting on the rug enjoying a picnic in the countryside. One of them is about to write a poem or do a brush painting on a piece of paper, with an ink stone for making ink by his side. Three servants are serving more food and drinks.
A private play is on with a lute accompaniment. Two people in the audience are seated with two standing attendants.
Two people facing each other are playing the lute. The two pots of orchids and the landscape painting behind the man depict they are well-educated people. Orchid is a symbol of elegance and friendship.
A man is writing calligraphy with a brush on paper in his studio. An attendant is standing beside him.
The grandeur Suzhou gardens are famous for the rockery (假山) with stones taken mainly from Tai Hu (太湖). Trees are planted and meticulously trimmed to provide an excellent resort for wealthy people and officials.
The woman is pruning a pot of orchid, with a maid on her side. A man on the left is reading a book with a servant bringing him some drink. The garden is full of beautiful bonsai and plants depicting the artistic taste of a wealthy household.
Two men with their bonsai and other plants.
Three people are chatting leisurely in a garden with bamboo, with a standing attendant.
A man is taking a rest under a tree watching two cocks fighting (鬥雞). The two cocks have lost a lot of feathers. Cockfighting is illegal in civilized countries nowadays but in the old days it was common and not regarded as a crime.
Bath house (浴堂). The sign says this bath house offers bath with perfume (香水). Patrons have a nice time there.
Fishermen usually have hard lives, but they still enjoy themselves after work on the boats.
The fishermen are having meals together and enjoying themselves. A girl on the right is serving them.
A woman is holding her baby in her arms. The man playing the flute may be her husband.
A home school (私塾) with piles of books on the table. A teacher (far left) is talking to his young student.
A school with teacher (seated and dressed in blue) and students. The teacher is talking to a student. One of the students is kneeling down on his knees, probably being reprimanded by his teacher. The entrance bears a sign ‘Free School (義學)’, being a school providing free education run by charitable organisations.
Tàixué, Imperial College(太學) is the highest level of education offered by the government. It consists of the main building, smaller buildings, a large front yard with paifongs (gateway structures 牌坊). The clouds above the whole campus depicts the college is blessed by heaven.
The paifong (gateway structures牌坊) at the front bears the sign ‘Educate talented individuals (育才)’
The Main Building with the sign ‘ Dacheng Hall (大成殿)’ . Confucian temple usually bears this name. Dacheng means ‘collecting the great achievements of ancient sages (集古聖賢之 大成)’.
A government public examination is on with a large number of candidates. They are usually in their early twenties. Those who get top results will be allocated to prestigious government posts. This explains why people spend all their energy studying in order to secure a good future.
The Provincial Administration Commissioner (總藩) is a high ranking official in the Imperial Government. He is responsible for overall administration on the provincial level. His office is large and solemn.
Government Office with various ranks of officials
The red guards at the entrance of the government office blow the trumpets to announce the arrival of important officials. The wall shows a painting of a Kirin (騏驎) which is a legendary animal with a dragon-like head and a body with the combined qualities of a giraffe, horse, ox, and deer. It symbolizes judging of high morality, and punishing evil, wicked and corrupt people. The Kirin also possesses extraordinary abilities such as incinerating people deemed foul or wicked with fire from its mouth.
Sharp weapons are displaced. The executors (刀斧手) in orange coloured uniforms with two long erect antlers scare people off.
Red colour badges of ‘Chief Administration Commissioner (布政使司)’ and white badges of ‘Avoid (廻避)’, ‘Be Quiet (肅靜)’ alert the public to give way.
Porters are carrying heavy parcels sealed with white strips into the government office. The parcels may be silver or gold to be delivered to the treasury.
An official sitting at the front may be the judge of a criminal case. The orange umbrella and green banner show the high rank of the official.
Two senior officials are travelling on horseback in a busy street with two junior officers holding long weapons leading the way. The orange umbrella indicates the high rank of the official. Between the two horses, an officer is holding a long whip probably for crowd control.
A well dressed VIP, maybe a high ranking official from the Imperial Court, is about to disembark and go onshore. He is welcomed on the pier by two other high ranking officials given the distinctive patterns on their gowns. A sedan chair and a large orange umbrella are waiting for the VIP. Three lower ranking officers with some gifts in their hands are about to present them to the VIP.
An imperial inspector debarking from his boat is warmly welcomed by local officials. The wooden badges on the boat ‘On Imperial Order (欽命)’, and ‘Governor (部堂)’ indicate the high rank of the Imperial inspector.
Buddhism was a popular religion in China in those days. People went to temples for thanksgiving and praying for good fortune.
Buddhist temples with smoke and clouds above it depicts the temple has lots of incense and candles burnt and offered, implying good patronage. The trees inside the temples are old pine trees of historical importance.
The sign at the door states ‘Bless the country and her people (福國祐民)’
This is a monastery with a pergola in the middle of the yard and a statue of Buddha can be seen on the first floor. Two monks are in the building to the left, with two monks or nuns walking in the yard.
Monks and nuns are in a procession asking for alms for blessing the city.
The long scroll starts with two poles with flying orange banners. On the banners are two characters ‘Boundless longevity (萬壽)’ sending well wishes to the Emperor. Green paddy fields are in the distant view. The front view shows two joyful nuns in front of a temple thanking heaven for bringing prosperity and good harvest to the country.
The characters ‘Boundless longevity (萬壽)’ on the two orange banners
Two joyful nuns
Suzhou (蘇州), rich in culture, renowned for its great beauty has a long history of 2500 years. It is still a prosperous and highly cultural city today, but most of the houses have been replaced with high-rise buildings. The scroll is indeed an important documentation of Suzhou 270 years ago.
This page was written in memory of my late friend Angela Pong who gave me the book
Prosperous Suzhou published by the Commercial Press (Hong Kong).
Tang, ETY, LK Yim (1990) Prosperous Suzhou 姑蘇繁華圖, painted by Xu Yang, 1759, Qing Dynasty, The Commercial Press (Hong Kong), ISBN 962 07 5113 2
冼懿穎 (2009) 我的大手筆 天堂夢姑蘇繁華圖, Commercial Press (Hong Kong), ISBN 978 962 07 5566 8