Suzhou is a major city along the Yangtze River Delta and is known for its gardens and silk trade. It’s been a big player in the Chinese economy for years, and is now considered a UNESCO Heritage Site. While it’s economic importance has slowed since the early days, the city now draws in thousands of tourists each year. If you’re planning on visiting Suzhou, here is what you’ll want to know.
Interesting Facts About Suzhou
-Suzhou has a total area of 6,264 square kilometers.
-It borders Shanghai, the Yangtze River, and Wuxi City.
-The city is known as the capital of silk.
-The construction of the grand canal is what initially earned Suzhou its fame.
-It’s known for its Song dynasty-style architecture and design.
-The climate is warm and tropical although winters can get cold and damp.
-The town is more than 2,500 years old.
-It is one of the 20 most popular cities in China for tourists.
-Suzhou’s biggest attractions are its classical/ancient gardens.
-This city supposedly produces more laptop computers than anywhere else in the world.
-The citizens here receive the third highest income per capita in all of China’s cities.
-Suzhou is also known for its Jiangsu-style food.
History Of Suzhou
Suzhou can be traced back to the late Shang Dynasty and was once the center of Wu culture. Local tribes, like the Gou Wu, were documented as living in this area before it officially became a city. The Suzhou that we now know was established between 770-476 BCE during a historical time of warfare.
While the city of Suzhou was established, it wasn’t really on the radar in China until 1,000 years later. It was the construction of the Grand Canal between 581-618 CE that put Suzhou on the map. The canal was built using forced labor and millions of people died from starvation while building it.
However, once the canal was finished, the city was at the center of an important trade route. This positioned Suzhou as a major player in China’s economy for commerce and industry. Over the years the city became more well-connected and started to see a small population of tourists.
Suzhou did see a few attacks and invasions over the years. However, it was eventually declared the capital. Famous leaders congregated here which is how the famous gardens came to be. Even after many of these private gardens were established, Suzhou saw invasions that caused damage to many of them. It was during the 1950s that these gardens were officially restored and made to be the highlight of a visit here.
The Culture OF Suzhou
Suzhou is a city full of natural beauty and historical significance. If you want to experience the best of its culture, here’s what you should see and do:
Suzhou Silk Museum: This museum explains Suzhou’s history and significance within the silk trade. It’s a great place to visit with children, especially to get a look at the live silkworms.
Suzhou Opera Museum: Opera is one of Suzhou’s claims to fame. This museum is a beautiful display of history surrounding this art form. Visitors will see art, stunning architecture, and maybe even an actual performance.
Temple of Mystery: Established in the third century, this Taoist temple exudes beauty and mystery. It was a popular stop for traveling acrobats and magicians who would pull tricks to steal money and fascinate passerbys. Today, it’s a beautiful work of architecture that has interesting sculptures and details for visitors to enjoy.
Ligongdi: This causeway stretches for 1400 meters and has become a landmark famous for its architecture in Suzhou. It’s considered a commercial and leisure area and has plenty of entertainment and dining options on the waterfront. The atmosphere and offerings here are the perfect mix between western and eastern cultures.
The Humble Administrator’s Garden: This is one of the most famous of the ancient gardens in Suzhou. It’s full of ornate Bonsai trees, waterways, and carved tree roots. Tours of this garden take place every five to ten minutes although they are only conducted in Mandarin. Many visitors to the garden opt to take a tour by boat as well.
The Lingering Garden: This is also one of the most significant of the classic gardens in Suzhou. It is also one of the largest, and has been declared a World UNESCO Heritage Site. It’s made up of four distinct and themed sections Visitors will see pavilions, courtyards, and stone sculptures throughout the garden.
The Garden Of The Master Of The Nets: This enclosed house and garden is one of the smallest and most beautiful in Suzhou. While the garden itself is small, there is actually enough here to keep you busy for half a day. There are often live performances that guests can catch if they have the time.
The Lion Forest Garden: This is one of Suzhou’s great four gardens and is definitely worth a visit. The garden was once part of a Buddhist monastery and is full of twisting and winding paths. It’s easy to get lost among the rock sculptures that once impressed Chinese scholars of the past.
Former Residence of Poet and Scholar Yu Yue: This is a great way to visit one of the favorite sites of the locals. It’s lowkey and offers plenty of beauty and history. Plus, it’s a pretty important landmark to check out while in the city.