Suzhou's history reaches back 2500 years, give or take hundred – it is one of the oldest towns in the Yangtze basin. Credit for its foundation is given to the King of the State of Wu, who made it his capital in the 6th century BC. With the completion of the Grand Canal in the Sui Dynasty (589 – 618 AD), Suzhou found itself strategically sited on a major trading route, and the city's fortunes – and size- rose rapidly. It flourished as a center of shipping and grain storage, bustling with merchants and artisans. By the 12th century the town had attained its present dimensions, and if you consult the map, the layout of the old town is distinct. The city walls, a rectangle enclosed by moats, were pierced by six gates (north, south, two in the east; two to the west). Crisscrossing the city were six north-south canals, and fourteen east-west canals. Although the walls have largely disappeared, and a fair proportion of the canals have been plugged, central Suzhou retains its 'Renaissance' character.
A legend was spun around Suzhou, reflected in the famous proverb "In Heaven there is Paradise, on earth Suzhou and Hangzhou" – and in the tales of beautiful women with mellifluous voices. The story picks up when Marco Polo arrived in 1276 – he added the adjectives 'great' and 'noble', though he reserved his finer epithets for Hangzhou. The peripatetic's keen memory tells us that there were astonishing numbers of craftsmen and rich merchants, as well as great sages, physicians and magicians. "Moreover I tell you quite truly that there are six thousand bridges of stone in this city, below the greater part of which one galley or two could well pass..."
The Humble Adiministrator's Garden (Zhuozheng Yuan) is situated in Dongbei Street, Inner Dongbei Loumen- northeastern portion of Suzhou. Built in the early 1500s... >>more
The Master of the Nets Garden (Wangshi Yuan) is one of the four famous gardens in Suzhou, and the member of the World Cultural Heritage Sites. It is located in No. 11 Kuojiatou Lane...>>more
With an area of three hectares, The Lingering Garden (Liu Yuan) is one of the largest Suzhou gardens, noted for its adroit partitioning with building complexes. It dates to the Ming Dynasty...>>more
Hanshan Temple (or Cold Mountain Temple; Hanshansi in Chinese) is located in Feng Qiao Town, which is 5 Km away from Suzhou City. The temple was built during the Liang Kingdom of Six Dynasties...>>more
The original Grand Canal (Da Yunhe), like the Great Wall, was not one but a series of interlocking projects from different eras. The earliest parts were dug in 486 BC in the north to facilitate troop movements...>>more
The Tiger Hill scenery spot is located on the northwestern edge of Suzhou, which has a history of over 2500 years. Endowed with historic events, cultural heritage and picturesque,the hill is known as...>>more
Although Polo's estimate of 6000 bridges is a bit on the wild side, a map made 150 years before his visit shows 359 bridges, as well as 12 pagodas, more than 50 temples and numerous bath-houses. The town became a nesting spot for the Chinese aristocracy, pleasure-seekers, gentlemen of leisure, famous scholars, actors and painters – who set about constructing villas and garden retreats for themselves. At the height of Suzhou's development in the 16th century, the gardens, large and small, numbered over a hundred. If we mark time here, we arrive at Suzhou's tourist formula today – 'Garden City, Venice of the East' – a medieval mix of woodblock guilds and embroidery societies, whitewashed housing, cobbled street5s, tree-lined avenues and canals.
Some 6,244,000 people live in Suzhou now. Around 110,000 private enterprises –sericulture (the worms are now partially computer-assisted), machine building, electronics, optical instruments, ferro-concrete boats, chemical industries –have sprung up but, being relegated to the outskirts, have not greatly interfered with the central core. The artisans have regrouped and geared up for the export and tourist markets. Everything is absorbed – tourists, education, trains, silkworms, silk, wheat, gardens, pagodas, bridges, tea, galleys, computer, digital watches and cameras – they all melt into the calm rhythms of this ancient water-town.