The quaint village of Tongli dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618 -907 AD) and it became a city during the Song Dynasty.
Currently, Tongli’s population adds up to some 35,000 inhabitants. Located some 18km from the city of Suzhou, it is one of the most interesting “ water towns” in the region. It’s located on the shores of Lake Taihu, on which its Grand Canal empties into.
Tongli, which has been unofficially dubbed as a “museum of Chinese classical buildings”, in recent years has served as location for many historical and epic Chinese films.
The village is surrounded by water on all four sides and is crossed by several streams and canals, which in practice make it a city-archipielago, connected by hundreds of wooden and stone bridges, which are the vital links between the different sections of the city.
The forty-nine stone bridges allow binding between the seven islands that Tongli sits on. Each bridge has names such as “Bridge of Luck” or of “Peace and Tranquility”.
Tongli town is full of historical places, temples, palatial houses, tea houses, museums and gardens. Two of these gardens are especially famous: the Tuisi Garden, built during the Qing Dynasty and the Ming style garden, built by a group of enthusiasts in 1993.
However, the most important landmark you can find in Tongli is the Sex Museum , a type of museum that you will certainly not find anywhere else in China.
Chinese Sex Museum
The Chinese Sex Museum broke up with Shanghai in 2004 to settle in the quiet village of Tongli, in a stately mansion dating back to the Qing dynasty, which was once once a school for girls.
The visit to this museum is a fascinating journey through the history of everything erotic in China, an aspect of life that is normally hidden behind the thick censorship curtain enforced by the Chinese regime.
The collection consists of more than 3,000 pieces, arranged chronologically and thematically. The museum features pieces ranging from the shocking to the ridiculous or humorous.
A wide collection of surprisingly large jade dildos, tiny shoes connected with the tradition of foot binding, torture devices used to punish adultery, chastity belts and other curious items are mixed with a fabulous collection of satirical statues, engravings and old samples of erotic prints which include, inter alia, lesbian and gay scenes, topics considered taboo in today’s Chinese society.
The most interesting part of the collection is housed in the outer courts, where many, usually comical, statues are exposed.
How to reach Tongli
Tongli can be reached from Souzhou by bus from the central station.
The ticket costs 80 CNY and includes the admission charge to the town. Once you reach Tongli’s bus stop, small electric cars take tourists to the entrance of the old village.