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December 2018. The city of Suzhou offers visitors a fascinating slice of ancient China with its UNESCO gardens and restored canal streets. For an atmospheric stroll through yesteryear there are two particularly handsome pedestrianized roads where you can meander, shop, watch boats bob by, cross an age-old bridge or two and sample the local cuisine. Having already covered the delights of Pingjiang Road, I decided to check out Suzhou’s other popular walking route, Shantang Street.
December 2018. Dating back to 825, Shantang Street was developed by a famous poet, Bai Juyi, who was famed in Suzhou for promoting the area in trade and the arts. As with Pingjiang Road, Shantang is full of cosy cafes, pocket-sized restaurants and cutesy shops focusing on traditional handicrafts. This toyshop, with its Beatrix-Potter-esque animal dolls, was my favorite store.
December 2018. The thing that really sets Shantang Street apart was my encounter with this amusing man and his dazzling slide show machine. “Sit-down-a-please, look-a-look-a” he called and so I did, not entirely sure what it was I’d be looking at.
December 2018. Without further ado he cut straight to the chase with a direct “money!”, though my initial cynicism was lifted somewhat by the revelation that whatever I was gonna be treated to, it was only going to cost me 10RMB (£1.15/€1.30/$1.45). So I scanned his WeChat QR code, paid the fee and, with the mildest of anticipation, waited to see what would materialize.
December 2018. The resulting five-minute presentation, which a friend of mine amusingly translated as “peep show” (西洋镜), was some kind of traditional Chinese drama involving fire, a tiger, a dramatic love triangle and a series of grisly executions. None of it made a lick of sense and indeed even my Chinese friend could only offer a vague: “Uh… I’m not sure exactly”. In any case it didn’t matter, the whole thing was good for a giggle.
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