Marco Polo once described Suzhou (Sūzhōu, 苏州) as one of the most beautiful cities in China and today visitors to this city—once fondly referred to as "Venice of the East"—can still see evidence of this beauty along the ancient canals in the old section of town.
Like many cities in China, the face of today's Suzhou has changed drastically in the past 20 years. Suzhou's old town is now flanked by two modern development areas: Suzhou New District (SND) and Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP). Suzhou Industrial Park is a popular area with foreign expats and students. Some 10,000 foreigners live in Suzhou.
Suzhou offers an ecclectic mix of old and new and there's a bit of something for everyone. From cozy cafés, lakes, ancient canals, classical Chinese gardens and even a silk factory.
Suzhou has long benefited from its location between two of China's greatest waterways. One, the Yangtze River, divides north and south China; the other, the Grand Canal, connects them. Covered 42 percent by water, Suzhou is nestled in the midst of a network of smaller canals and natural waterways that historically linked the city to various dynastic capitals in Beijing, Hangzhou and Nanjing, making it a vital center of trade, industry and culture while bringing it riches, fame and patronage of the arts.
From the Song Dynasty onward, its wealthy inhabitants set about turning Suzhou into a green city, building sprawling garden homes alongside willow-lined canals and employing skilled artisans to blend the manmade and natural in classic Chinese style.
Today, though the old city still has its moat and many of its finest gardens, greater Suzhou is far from being stuck in the past—it's a booming metropolis of 5 million, profiting from its proximity to the Yangtze River Delta and the economic powerhouse of Shanghai. Despite the building boom, many gardens, temples and classic Chinese canal scenes remain, and Suzhou is still the source of some of China's finest silk.
Cycle around the city visiting gardens, shop for silk and local handicrafts, visit the New Suzhou Museum addition designed by native son I.M. Pei, head out to one of the Ming or Qing-era canal towns on the city's outskirts or the pleasant island-speckled Tai Hu, China's third largest lake—the list of things to do and see in Suzhou is long.
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Named for the collection of rocks resembling lions, the Lion Grove Garden (Shī Zǐ Lín, 狮子林), or Lion Forest Garden, was built in 1342 during the Yuan Dynasty by a group of..
Situated in the west of Suzhou, Tiger Hill (Hǔ Qiū, 虎丘) marks the burial ground of He Lu, the father of Suzhou. Atop the hill stands the Tiger Hill Pagoda (Hǔ Qiū Tǎ, 虎丘塔), which..
Originally built during the Ming Dynasty, Lingering Garden (Liú Yuán, 留园) is a 3 hectare (7 acre) park located 3 km (2 mi) outside of the Suzhou city center...