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Suzhou a city blending modernity, heritage

By Bruce Connolly | | Updated: 2021-11-08 15:35
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A traditional canal scene in older part of Suzhou 1996. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/]

"In heaven there is paradise, on earth there is Suzhou and Hangzhou". Such words from that traditional adage I recalled in 1996 while standing at Shanghai's Huangpu Park, gazing across to Pudong's rising skyline. Nearby, heavily laden canal barges were emerging from Wusong River (Suzhou Creek) before continue along the busy Huangpu.

That visit to Shanghai created many positive impressions of a city in the midst of rapid change, of a frenzy spurred on by Pudong's seemingly relentless transformation to emerge as a major economic driver for the Yangtze Delta. However, I pondered about what lay inland, for I planned to go to Suzhou, one hour westwards by train.

In 1996 Suzhou certainly felt different from Shanghai. Much of its everyday life centered around a maze of interconnected canals and waterways, and the city seemingly untouched by rapid changes happening only one hour away. While recent construction was underway around the urban fringes, for the most part Suzhou seemed content to preserve its enduring traditions and lifestyle.

To me, Suzhou personified a city with close ongoing relationships between tight, compact urban spaces and necklaces of water encircling its geographical area. Simply walking by the canals, watching and feeling the constant vibes of activity, I could sense a love and a passion for Suzhou developing.

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