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Suzhou is synonymous with silk, and the water town is especially well known for its embroidery and brocade. So, after a visit to the Suzhou Silk Museum or Suzhou Silk Factory where you can learn enough to improve your bargaining position and avoid getting duped by phony material, head out into the town and start shopping. Vivid Song Dynasty-style brocades are a Suzhou specialty. The style, known variously as "Su embroidery," "Suzhou embroidery," and "boudoir embroidery"—the latter because it was traditionally practiced by young women awaiting marriage—involves vivid colors, intricate patterns, images of flowers, birds, characters and fine needlework. Developed over some 2,600 years, the contemporary art includes a unique double-sided embroidery style, and can be found adorning everything from petite handkerchiefs to room-spanning screens.

The city is also celebrated for its green Biluochun Tea (Bìluó Chá, 碧罗茶), which makes for an elegant and entertaining beverage—the slender, pointed green tea leaves are best served in a clear glass; as they absorb water they slowly drift down until they gracefully stand on end on the bottom of your glass, waving like grass in a light breeze as you sip your tea. The leaves are picked in early spring on the slopes of Biluo Shan (Bìluó Shān, 碧罗山) near Tai Lake, just to the west of Suzhou.

Other goods to seek out in Suzhou include the city's famed Ming Dynasty-style New Year posters and Suzhou fans.

Guanqian Street (Guānqián Lù, 观前路) and Shilu Street (Shíquán Jiē, 十全街) are pleasant pedestrian-only streets featuring a number of shops selling popular Suzhou wares. Guangqian Street's old silk shops—some go back over 100 years—are especially good if you're looking for clothing or fabric. Avoid small stands selling silk near major attractions, as they tend to be overpriced and occasionally push fake cloth. Shiquan Street is good for souvenirs, and Huqiu Road (Hǔqiū Lù, 虎丘路) is known for its bridal veils and cameras. The best deals on pearls can be found in Weitang Town at the Chinese Pearl Center not far from the railway station.

Suzhou Nightlife

Suzhou attractions

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