Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tongli - Is that a giant-penis-to-ward-off-evil-spirits in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?

The start of our day trip to Tongli was an unmitigated disaster. Rather than taking a tour bus from Shanghai straight to Tongli, we thought we'd get clever and catch the train first to Suzhou and then a smaller bus to Tongli. Big mistake. First we had to wait an hour at the train station as the earlier trains were booked out, and we could only get standing room, not seats, for the 45min train ride! Then when we got to Suzhou it was raining and we couldn't find the ticket counter to arrange transport and entry to Tongli. Anyway, we eventually got there just after lunch time, thankful that the rain had stopped. 

Tongli itself is actually very nice and picturesque. It is a canal town, with various gardens and old buildings to meander around. However, the big drawcard is the Chinese Sex Culture Museum, which we knew we had to see as soon as we heard about it. It did not disappoint. 

Covered with photos of landscapes featuring humorously-shaped rocks and trees, the museum boasts a very large collection of several thousand books, statues, paintings and other artifacts relating to sex. Founded by two sociology professors, the displays were definitely more educational than racy. It also had most of the descriptions in English and Chinese which was awesome. 

It covered a huge variety of topics, like sex and religion (giant wooden penises used in religious ceremonies to ward off evil spirits), homosexuality (a comparison of ancient sex toys and modern sex toys) and sex in nature (amusing ancient sculptures of animals performing various questionable activities with people). Some of it was pretty horrible, like the display on foot binding and the large array of implements used to punish insubordinate prostitutes and women who committed adultery. We thought it was especially interesting that there were so many examples of horrible things done to women, but the display on castration was the only one that concerned men (and even that can be argued because it was a life choice for heaps of men since eunuchs apparently enjoyed heaps of priveleges), yet another example of the effects of a patriarchal society. 

Anyway, most of the other exhibits were pretty amusing and we had a good laugh (thankfully we had the place to ourselves). After that we went to see one of the old residences, whose drawcard was a spectacular garden. Then we wandered around the canals while making our way back to the centre of town before walking back to the bus station (which for some reason is a couple of kilometres out of town).

I would have liked to have spent more time in Tongli, but I'm still glad that we went, as it was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. But I would definitely recommend taking the direct bus and trying to get an early start. I would also recommend going to the tourist information centre in Tongli, which is on the other side of the carpark from where the tour buses drop you off, because they have a helpful, free sightseeing map and nice toilets (a bit of a rarity over here!).


  1. WTF! that statue almost has a wang as big as mine.. almost.

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