Suzhou

In the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and on the shores of the Taihu Lake lies the 2500-year-old city of Suzhou, the cradle of Wu culture. It takes up an area of 8,488 square kilometers with a population of 5.75 million people.

The name "Wu" is often applied to refer to Suzhou, derived from the local tribes who named themselves "Gou Wu" in the late Shang Dynasty about 11th century BC. Later, King Helu of Wu State in 514BC built his capital here known as the "Great City of Helu" and since then the city's site and scale have remained virtually unchanged, making Suzhou a rare city of historical and cultural renown in the world.

Bordering on Shanghai in the east, Zhejiang Province in the south, the Taihu Lake in the west and the Yangtze River in the north, Suzhou enjoys a mild and humid climate, with an annual temperature of 15 to 17íŠ and an annual rainfall of 1076.2mm. It is easily accessible by water, land and air communications.

Talking about Suzhou, people would mention the old saying: "Paradise in Heaven, Suzhou and Hangzhou on earth." The style of Suzhou lies in "Softness", like the tone of Wu dialect, which also sums up the character in feminine beauty, tenderness, serenity, subtlety and elegance.

The natural scenery of hills and waters in Suzhou is as charming as a delicate beauty. Of the whole area, 10% is cultivated fields, 30% hills, and the rest covered with water. Streets and alleys in Suzhou extend side by side with canals. Small bridges and flowing waters, white walls and dark gray roof tiles match one another in tranquil elegance. As a poem describes, "On arriving in Suzhou you behold: Houses are all pillowed on water's edge." The gentle waters make the prominent urban scenery.

The poetic and picturesque Suzhou gardens are a typical demonstration of simple elegance, with intriguing scenes found in every season and in all weathers. The Humble Administrator's Garden and the Lingering Garden in the city are listed in China's Four Most Famous Gardens and exert great influence on China's and even the world's garden architecture. Endowed with abundant native products, the rich and exquisite Suzhou cuisine sets a style of its own on this "land of plenty". The traditional performing arts of Suzhou are best represented by Kunqu Opera, Suzhou Opera and Pingtan (ballad singing), reputed both in China and overseas for their minute acting and harmonic melody. The folks here are honest, good-natured, friendly and hospitable.

A metropolis of industry and commerce along the southeastern coast of China since ancient times, Suzhou has always been a hub for merchants, which, as the Tang (618-907) poet Bai Juyi described over a thousand years ago, "...has a population greater than Yangzhou Prefecture and more than half of the shops in Chang'an, the capital". The Italian traveler Marco Polo praised Suzhou as a "noble and great city" 600 years ago.

Today's Suzhou is an open city with developed economy and frequent exchanges with the outside world. It has been officially declared as part of the coastal economic open zone of the Yangtze River Delta. Comprehensive industrial system has taken shape, and Suzhou has seen tremendous expansion in foreign trade and international economic co-operation, establishing friendship with cities in Italy, Canada, Japan and the United States.

 
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